Explosions rock military armoury

explosivesA soldier has been killed and thousands of people were evacuated after a fire and a series of explosions rocked one of Sri Lanka’s largest ammunition dumps where the army stores heavy weapons.

Local television stations showed rocket propelled grenade shells and shrapnel that had landed in the middle of a road.

Explosions at the army camp at Salawa, 33 kilometres east of the capital Colombo, continued for more than five hours.

The cause was not immediately known and the Government has ordered an investigation by the police criminal investigation department.

“The fire started in a small arms store and spread. There were heavy weapons such as artillery shells stored in the proximity but the damage is still unknown,” Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake told the media.

One soldier was killed and one injured in the blasts, an army spokesman said. But sources from two nearby hospitals said at least five people were being treated for injuries.

Pradeep Koddipily, spokesman for Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre, said residents living in a 5 kilometre radius had been asked to evacuate immediately. Thousands of people have already been evacuated fearing explosions.

The chief operating officer for the Colombo Fire Brigade said firefighters could not reach the site due to the intensity of the explosions.

“None of the trucks have entered the camp as it’s not safe to go inside. We have not handled this magnitude of armoury fire,” Rohitha Fernando said.

Army spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera said the Salawa armoury was one of the largest in the island nation.

The main road in front of the camp, which thousands of workers take to go to and from Colombo, has been closed.

The Government ordered all schools and government offices in the area to remain closed on Monday. (Reuters)

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