Nigeria: Annan pledges UN help after massive explosion kills hundreds

Nigeria: Annan pledges UN help after massive explosion kills hundreds

Expressing shock and grief after a massive explosion at a weapons depot in Nigeria killed hundreds of people, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations stood ready to help as the Government sought to assist the victims of the tragedy and determine the cause of the blast.

In a letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo that was made available at UN Headquarters, the Secretary-General extended his deepest sympathy and condolences for the "terrible loss of life" as a result of the explosion in Lagos on Sunday night.

"Above all, my thoughts and prayers go to the families of those who lost their lives or were reported missing as a result of this tragedy," he wrote.

"As your Government works to address the needs of the victims, as well as the causes and consequences of this horrific event, I assure you that the United Nations system in Nigeria is ready to provide any assistance it can," Mr. Annan said.

In the meantime, a three-person UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team will be deployed tomorrow to Lagos, on request by the Nigerian Government, to determine the needs there, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. The Office has also authorized the disbursement of a $30,000 grant to assist with the recovery efforts.

The immediate relief needs will be determined once the populations have been settled in two camps that are being prepared to receive the military and civilian survivors, OCHA said.