A fire erupted at a popular nightclub in Yaounde, Cameroon's capital, setting off explosions and killing at least 16 people, government officials said Sunday.
The tragedy comes as the country hosts thousands of soccer players, fans and match officials from across the continent for the month-long African Football Cup of Nations tournament.
“We are still at the level of investigations to find out the names and nationalities of the dead and the wounded," said government spokesman Rene Emmanuel Sadi.
Authorities say the fire started at a nightclub in the Bastos neighbourhood of the Cameroonian capital and soon spread to a place where cooking gas was being stored.
“There were loud explosions from six gas bottles, causing panic in the neighbourhood.” the government statement said, adding that eight others were injured and taken to Yaounde's Central Hospital.
In a statement, Cameroonian President Paul Biya called for calm and assured players and fans of their safety.
The championship, featuring teams from 24 countries, originally was scheduled for 2021 but then was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.