March 7 (UPI) -- At least 17 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in an explosion at a military base in Equatorial Guinea, officials said.
The blast occurred Sunday afternoon at the military barracks in the Mondong Nkuantoma neighborhood of Bata, a port city in the Central African nation.
The country's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare reported at least 17 people had died and another 420 people were injured from the explosion, while rescuers continued to search for others believed to be missing under the rubble.
The ministry has called on the public to donate blood and for health professionals wanting to volunteer to go to the Bata Regional Hospital.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said in a statement published by his office that the incident was the result of "negligence and carelessness" of the unit in charge of explosives, dynamite and munitions storage, which ignited due to the fires of farmland in the vicinity.
The explosion, he said, sent shockwaves through the area, causing "great damage to almost all the buildings and homes in the city of Bata."
The president said he ordered an investigation into the cause of the blast, the extent of the damage and to identify those responsible.
"I appeal to the population to remain calm and quiet and ignore hoaxes, comments and negative information that circulate on social networks about this event," he said.
He also appealed to the international community for support to rebuild as it will further negatively impact the country, which is already struggling from an economic crisis caused by the fall in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.