The death toll from two bomb attacks, one of which tore through a busy junction outside the Safari Hotel in the heart of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, has risen to 85.
It has become one of the deadliest attacks in the country since Islamist militants launched an insurgency in 2007.
Police said a truck bomb exploded outside the Safari Hotel at the K5 intersection, which is lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks, flattening buildings and setting vehicles on fire. A separate blast struck the Medina district two hours later.
More than 60 were injured in the explosion outside of the hotel and hospitals are struggling to cope with the high number of casualties.
Officials feared the death toll would continue to climb.
Many victims died at hospitals from their wounds, Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said.
The Red Cross said four volunteers with the Somali Red Crescent Society are among the dead and warned “this figure may rise as there are a number of volunteers still missing.”
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded victims.
Somalia’s government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab extremist group for the attack it called a “national disaster.” However, al-Shabaab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital with bombings, had yet to claim the attack.
“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said.
“They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”
Somalia’s information minister, Abdirahman Omar, said the blast was the largest the city had ever seen. “It’s a sad day. This how merciless and brutal they are, and we have to unite against them,” he said, speaking to the state-run radio station.
Overnight, rescue workers with torch lights searched for any survivors trapped under the rubble of the Safari Hotel, which was largely destroyed.
The hotel is close to Somalia’s foreign ministry. The blast blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.