By Louise Dewast |BBC News|
At least 8,000 electronic voting machines are known to have been destroyed in the fire overnight at a depot in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
That is more than two-thirds of the number needed for the capital city’s four million voters. Other electoral material was also destroyed.
The president of DR Congo’s National Electoral Commission (Ceni) called this a serious blow, but he added that officials would do everything they could to maintain the vote on 23 December.
Ceni says it is planning to return voting machines that had been dispatched to other parts of the country and were meant to serve as reserve in case of any problems.
The use of the machines has proved controversial as many believe they could facilitate vote rigging, and several opposition candidates have called for them to be banned outright.
The reason for the fire remains unclear but this incident comes after worrying developments in the country.
In the past few days, there have been clashes with police at campaign meetings – with reports of more than 40 people injured and some reportedly killed.