YAOUNDÉ - Cameroon says it has opened an investigation to find out the names and nationalities of 17 people who died Sunday in a fire that caused an explosion in the capital, Yaounde. The explosion in a popular nightclub also wounded eight people. The government is calling for calm as thousands of football fans visit Yaounde for the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations football tournament.
Hundreds of people including Cameroonian government officials turned out in Bastos, a Yaounde neighborhood, on Sunday morning. They watched as neighbors and workers of Livs, a popular nightclub, and Cameroon's Military Fire Brigade, searched three torched buildings in the area.
Among the civilians helping to search for the injured was 27-year-old Gustav Lemaleu.
Lemaleu says civilians and the Fire Brigade of Cameroon's ministry have saved the lives of at least 40 people. He says it is difficult to know the names and nationalities of the injured and the dead because clients do not present identification documents before having access to Livs.
Lemaleu said he is certain that the victims include people visiting Cameroon for the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.
In a statement, the government says an accidental fire at the nightclub spread to a cooking gas store. There were loud explosions from six gas canisters, causing panic in the neighborhood.
Public Health Minister Manaouda Malachie says President Paul Biya was informed of the incident as soon as it occurred. Manaouda says Biya has instructed health workers to transport the wounded to Yaounde Central Hospital.
He says Biya has asked the Public Health Ministry to treat the wounded free of charge and that arrangements be made for the dead to be buried in their places of origin after the investigation. He says Biya has instructed his ministry to give psychological assistance to traumatized family members of the injured whenever the traumatized relatives are identified.
Rene Emmanuel Sadi, Cameroon's minister of communication, visited the site of the incident. He says it is too early to know the names and countries of origin of the dead and wounded.
'We are still at the level of inquiries [investigations],' he said. 'The incident is quite serious. There are people who are dead. Others are injured and investigations are going on. I think when all these things are finished, I will be giving the exact information concerning this very serious incident.'
Sadi said the death toll may increase.
President Biya has called for calm and assured football players, fans and match officials attending the Africa Cup of Nations in Yaounde of their safety.
Cameroon is hosting thousands of people for the tournament, which started on January 9th and will end on February 6.