The death toll from a huge bomb blast outside the Safari Hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has risen to 53, security and medical sources told the Associated Press.
More than 60 were injured in the explosion and hospitals are struggling to cope with the high number of casualties.
Somalia’s government has yet to release the exact death toll from the explosion, which many called the most powerful they had ever witnessed in Mogadishu.
Officials feared the death toll would continue to climb.
Many victims died at hospitals from their wounds, Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said.
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.