22 March 2007

Explosions in Maputo

When I was a kid, okay well maybe into my teens, well maybe into my late teens, my dad would occasionally sit my brother and I down for the talk about appropriate things to put into the attic for storage. See, in northern NY we really only needed A/C about 2 weeks out of the whole year and even then my cousins in Georgia would tease about needing A/C for 90F weather (but the humidity is killer). The attic temps would regularly climb above 100F even with the fans on. Putting stuff that melts or otherwise reacts badly to heat was not a good idea.

Somehow my dad always seemed to find fireworks up in the attic. The little blackcat kind. Not me put them there, I swear. Fireworks are illegal in New York, but we always magically had them, probably because my dad enjoys setting them off as much as my brother and I. We were duly warned multiple times about the dangers of fireworks and leaving them in hot places. Which brings me to this afternoon's tale of confusion and perhaps terror for a few.

About 2 o'clock this afternoon, I started hearing rumbling even though the sky out my office/bedroom window was a beautiful blue. I thought perhaps it might be thunder despite the sky, because many times the sky is blue on one side of my apartment and cloudy and raining on the other side. I looked out the kitchen window, but no clouds. Hot and sunny. Then I thought, maybe an earthquake. Maputo had one last year around this time and it sounds like the 4.something one we had in NY when I was in middle school. But the rumbling continued for too long with no shaking.

Then I thought, well maybe the upstairs neighbors are moving furniture. Nope, they'd need to move an entire warehouse for the amount and duration of noise I was hearing. Still puzzled, around 3:30 I heard an explosion. People on the street below seemed startled but then continued with their business like nothing unusual happened. At this point I was thinking, thank goodness Mozambique isn't at war or experiencing civil unrest. However, the conspiracy theorist that lives at the back of my brain reminded me that 2 motorcades had gone by my apartment yesterday, and that I have been seeing lots of cops and military police on the street this past week. However, I live within 2 blocks of a military base and 4 blocks from the police station, so no go.

After 2 more window rattling explosions, I went up on the roof to see what I could see.

Not much. In the direction of the airport there was a column of smoke like something was burning. I texted my friend Natalina, who has been living here longer than I to see if she knew something. She wrote back "Arms depot. When it gets hot de bombs inside..."

It was the munitions storage facility out by the airport. When it gets hot here, the bombs detonate. However, I could have also checked my email, but when the power starts going off and on I don't like hooking into the power grid. I would hate to fry my laptop. This is what the warden from the US embassy sent me:

22 March 2007
Explosions in Maputo

The U.S. Embassy is sending this Warden Message to advise the American
community about explosions that are occurring in the Maputo area today
22 March 2007.

The explosions are apparently heat-induced weapons explosions at a
weapons site near the airport. This is not confirmed.

Americans in the Maputo area are advised to stay indoors, away from all
windows and away from the area around the Maputo airport until
explosions cease.

If you are in danger please contact the U.S. Consul on 82 300 0835 or
via the numbers below.

Thanks for the email warning. It is times like this that I wonder what would they do in a real emergency - like if the power was cut because of a cyclone or civil unrest or earthquake or tsunami. I hope that they have a plan, but you never know.

I continued cooking dinner. Around 5:45, there was explosion so powerful that the air pressure change whipped my hair about like someone was standing next to me and blowing hard. At the time, I was standing in my kitchen with the window barely cracked open (just so I could get some fresh air). The airport is about 4.5 km from my apartment (2.8 miles), so that was one hell of an explosion. I hope no one was hurt, but I doubt it.

There have been a few more explosions, but even the rumbling has calmed down since the sun set.

Dad was right.

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