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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Explosions rock Thai army base
Explosions
Explosions continued at the base for hours
At least two people were killed and about 70 injured in a series of explosions that ripped through an army base in northern Thailand.

Witnesses spoke of fireballs and plumes of smoke rising hundreds of metres above the base, which is used to store munitions.

The army commander, General Surayud Chulanont, said 12 people were still missing, but continuing blasts meant it was too dangerous to gain access to the site.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said initial reports indicate the explosion was accidental - it is believed to have been triggered while a lorry was being unloaded near one the base's arsenals.

The blasts happened at the army base in the Pakchong District of Nakhon Ratchasima province, about 260 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of Bangkok. Thousands of people have been evacuated from the area.

A Thai army spokesman said the base contained 50 buildings used to store ammunition.

Our correspondent in Bangkok, Jonathan Head, says continuous explosions have prevented emergency services from getting close to the source of the blast.

Evacuation

The first blast occurred at around 0900 local time (0200 GMT) and was followed by several smaller blasts.

Smoke rose hundreds of metres into the air
Smoke rose hundreds of metres into the air
Injured soldiers and civilians - mostly suffering cuts from flying glass - have been taken to local hospitals for treatment.

Provincial governor Sunthorn Riewluaeng has ordered the evacuation of villagers within a several kilometre radius of the base.

"It's still exploding, so I have asked local authorities to evacuate people from all public places such as schools, and close off roads leading to the blast site," he told AFP.

The explosion has also blocked off one of Thailand's busiest roads, creating heavy traffic jams.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Head
"The risk of further explosions stopped the emergency services getting near"
See also:

20 May 01 | Middle East
11 Jul 01 | South Asia
30 Apr 01 | South Asia
09 Oct 99 | South Asia
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
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