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DR Congo poll: Blaze hits electoral depot as tense vote nears

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The scale of the damage from the blaze is unclear

Fire has gutted an electoral commission depot in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the violent run-up to a presidential vote.

More than two-thirds of the electronic voting machines allocated for Kinshasa had been destroyed, an official said.

The cause of the fire has not been confirmed. Black smoke could still be seen over the site on Thursday morning.

The campaign to elect a successor to President Joseph Kabila on 23 December has been marred by deadly clashes.

The president’s mandate ended in 2016, but elections have been repeatedly delayed.

Dozens of opposition supporters have been killed in protests demanding that he step down.

The fire at the electoral commission warehouse broke out at about 02:00 local time (01:00 GMT).

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A photo released by the election commission shows vehicles damaged by the fire

An electoral commission official said the fire had destroyed about 8,000 electronic voting machines, representing two-thirds of the total required for Kinshasa.

The capital of four million people is home to some 15% of the total electorate.

The BBC’s Louise Dewast in Kinshasa says several opposition candidates have called for the voting machines to be banned, as they believe they could be used to rig the vote.

Mr Kabila is backing his former Interior Minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, in the election.

The vote is expected to be a tight contest between him, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi and business tycoon Martin Fayulu.

DR Congo has not had a peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

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