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Explosion in Nigeria Racks Bank, Apartments, Killing 40

Amid looting, many people remained under rubble in area packed with businesses and homes. Robbery could be a motive, police say.

February 03, 2003|Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria — A powerful explosion tore apart a bank and dozens of apartments above it here in Nigeria's crowded commercial capital Sunday, killing at least 40 people and trapping many others, relief workers said.

Police were investigating a range of possible motives -- including that the blast was part of a bank robbery. Looting and bloody fights broke out as hundreds of young men grabbed fistfuls of cash from the leveled bank and battled over the money.

In the chaos, trapped victims cried for rescue and onlookers wailed as rescuers retrieved bodies.

The Red Cross said searchers had recovered more than 30 dead and 32 injured. Ten of the wounded died later at Lagos General Hospital, hospital workers said.

Many more victims were believed caught in the rubble, and the death toll could rise, said Emmanuel Ijewere, president of the Nigerian Red Cross.

The blast occurred at midday on Lagos Island, a high-rise district of banks and other businesses jammed among poor, densely populated residential buildings.

The four-story bank building collapsed, bringing three floors of apartments crashing onto the ground-floor Prudent Bank. Fires flared briefly after the blast, which could be heard miles away.

Residents said some victims had been blocks from the bank building.

"My uncle was in the balcony of our house talking with a friend, and the force of the explosion threw them down," resident Remi Oyebanji said. "They're both dead."

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