WASHINGTON — The United States said Monday it is preparing to provide emergency aid to the victims of huge and deadly blasts at a munitions depot in Congo.

"We are obviously saddened by the loss of life and damage caused by Sunday's explosion at the munitions depot in Brazzaville," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"We are in the process of issuing a disaster declaration so that we can provide assistance and emergency help," she said.

"And we're working with the government of the Republic of Congo and the international community to determine what additional assistance might be necessary," Nuland said.

Congo issued a plea for international help Monday as soldiers recovered bodies from an area devastated by huge blasts at a munitions depot that killed more than 150 people and left 1,000 injured.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso announced a curfew in the capital Brazzaville and cordoned off the area around the devastated eastern district of Mpila.

The government said an electrical short-circuit likely caused a fire which triggered a series of blasts so powerful they destroyed scores of houses and even blew out windows in Kinshasa, the capital of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo situated across the Congo river.