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10 Jul, 2008 03:23

Many casualties feared following Uzbekistan blasts

A clear-up operation is underway after a series of explosions at artillery ammunition depots in Uzbekistan overnight. The blasts were reportedly caused by fire.

Daniil Kislov from Fergana Independent news agency told RT a fire started at a military helicopter base near the town of Kagan in western Uzbekistan.

The artillery arsenal is located right next to the base. Military personnel failed to put out the blaze and a number of explosions at the arsenal followed. The helicopter base, a hospital, a railway station and about 20 houses have been reported destroyed.

The Interfax news agency cites its source in the Russian Defence Ministry, saying the causes behind the incident have not been established yet.

According to the preliminary reports, there are casualties. The Fergana news agency says several people have been killed. The blasts reportedly started at 20:48 GMT on Wednesday, with artillery shells exploding.

No official number of victims has yet been given. However, local witnesses say hundreds have been injured.

The RIA Novosti news agency quotes a resident of Bukhara, a city 12 km from Kagan, as saying the blasts could be heard from the city. The Fergana news agency states the explosions smashed windows 12 km from source.

The citizens of Kagan have reportedly been evacuated.