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Explosion impacts United Methodists in Mozambique



A man videotapes a piece of munitions from the ammunition depot that exploded on the outskirts of Maputo, Mozambique, killing at least 100 people and injuring more than 450 others. UMNS Web-only photos by Ezequiel Marcos Nhantumbo. 













By United Methodist News Service

March 27, 2007



A house is among structures damaged
by the March 22 explosion.

An ammunition depot explosion near the capital of Mozambique has killed at least 100 people, injured more than 450 others and damaged two neighborhoods with United Methodist parishes.

The March 22 explosion on the outskirts of Maputo sent munitions flying in all directions in the metropolitan area, according to Carol Kreamer, coordinator of The Mozambique Initiative, a program of the United Methodist Missouri Annual (regional) Conference.

Government officials initially said a heat wave in Maputo caused the hundreds of tons of weaponry to explode. However, there are mounting accusations of government negligence, and residents are asking why the arsenal wasn't closed after explosions occurred there in January. President Armando Guebuza has announced the aging facility will be decommissioned.



Ezequiel Nhantumbo 

Ezequiel Nhantumbo, the Mozambique Initiative representative, and his family were not injured but their home was damaged and power knocked out in the hard-hit neighborhood of Zimpeto. The neighborhood of Malhazine also had significant damage.

Nhantumbo told Kreamer the destruction, with burned houses and destroyed vehicles, was similar to what "you see on the television in Iraq."

Weapons at the depot were not small arms. "There were missiles and they were flying in every direction, even into the city of Maputo. No place was safe," he said.

When the explosion occurred, Nhantumbo's wife, Celia, was traveling near the school attended by their children, Elton and Andra. She got them out of the school, but others were not so fortunate when a missile hit a classroom.

Mrs. Nhantumbo said a son of Alexandre Machava, who works in the conference office for the United Methodist Church in Mozambique, was running away from the explosion when he was killed on the spot along with two other students.



Munitions, including this bomb, were scattered throughout Maputo.  

Other conference staff members have family, friends, and neighbors unaccounted for or destroyed homes, according to Kreamer.

Maria Helena Feluane, administrative assistant for Bishop João Somane Machado, reported that many children have not been located. "For example, we are not able to find our (7-year-old) nephew since yesterday," she said on March 23. "We do not know what is happening with him. Many other parents, relatives and citizens are in the same situation as ours … moving around from police station to police station trying to find our kids."

The explosion follows a series of natural disasters in Mozambique. On Feb. 23, Cyclone Favio slammed into the coast of Mozambique and subsequent rains caused widespread flooding, destroying at least nine United Methodist parsonages and church buildings.

“There were missiles and they were flying in every direction, even into the city of Maputo. No place was safe.”
–Ezequiel Nhantumbo

Nhantumbo asked United Methodists to pray for the people of Mozambique, according to Kreamer.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is supporting two efforts to provide relief through Action by Churches Together partners already working in the area. They are providing shelter, blankets and other items to some 8,000 families. UMCOR is also working with the United Methodist Church in Mozambique to support their relief work.

United Methodists can aid emergency relief efforts, rehabilitation for refugees and assistance for displaced people and communities by contributing to "Mozambique Emergency," UMCOR Advance #156500.

Mail checks to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, with the words "UMCOR Advance #156500, Mozambique Emergency" written on the memo line. Credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583. Donations are being accepted at http://secure.gbgm-umc.org/donations/advance/donate.cfm?code=156500&id=3018386.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Related Articles

Mozambique: Government Negligence Blamed for Deadly Blast

Mozambique: Explosions - Death Toll Reaches 100

Missouri churches provide aid to Mozambique

Mozambique struggles under flooding, cyclone


The Mozambique Initiative

Mozambique Country Profile




Ezequiel Nhantumbo

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