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Fire and grenade blast kill 7 at Malakal UN base


The United Nations base in Malakal suffered a deadly weekend as a fire swept through the camp killing a baby while six died including three civilians in a grenade blast outside the camp, the UN said.

The fire broke out Sunday in Sector 1 of the camp, burning down 75% of the homes in the area and leaving 1000 people homeless, a spokesperson for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan told Radio Tamazuj.

Eight people suffered minor injuries, mostly associated with smoke inhalation, and the cause of the fire is being investigated, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Monday in New York.

The injured received treatment from aid workers and UN staff at the scene, said the International Organization for Migration which manages the camp in Malakal and was among the first responders to the fire with water trucks.

Aid workers have distributed blankets, cloth, biscuits, soap, and buckes to the affected households, IOM said.

Sector 1 is a heavily congested and overcrowded area, with an estimated 28,000 people living in just seven square meters per person, which is far below international humanitarian standards of 30 square meters per person, IOM said.

The group said the response to contain the blaze was further complicated by congested pathways, which made it difficult for responders to enter the site, as well as windy weather which aggravated the fire.

Aid groups have previously complained that UNMISS has not given enough living space in the camp for the large population of people inside.

The fire spread quickly despite a Fire Preparedness and Response Plan which has been in place for several months which had instructed citizens by radio how to prevent and respond to fires, IOM said.

The group said aid workers in the base are holding emergency meetings daily to respond to the effects of the fire.

Grenade 'accidentally' explodes

Separately, on Saturday three SPLA soldiers and three civilians reportedly died when a hand grenade accidentally exploded in a pickup truck in the vicinity of the Malakal base, the UN's Dujarric said.

Twelve were wounded and taken to the UN Mission’s Level II clinic and MSF hospital for treatment. 

Meanwhile, authorities detained a UN Mine Action staff member who they accused of photographing the scene of the blast. The staff member was later released. UN Mine Action teams are in South Sudan to help clear explosive remnants of war in South Sudan such as grenades, land mines, and other munitions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - 02:15
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