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Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 16:13 UK

Uzbek army base blast kills three

The explosion was heard 12km away

A series of explosions has ripped through an arms depot at a military base in Uzbekistan, killing at least three people and injuring about 20.

The blasts happened in the mining town of Kagan near the ancient Silk Road town of Bukhara.

Reports said the explosions were caused by a fire at the Soviet-era base.

Soldiers fought the flames but were unable to prevent the fire reaching a store of artillery shells.

"All those injured are being given necessary medical assistance," said the Uzbek state news agency UzA, citing the emergencies ministry.

One woman told Reuters news agency that the explosions shattered windows in her apartment in Bukhara, about 12 km (8 miles) from the site.

"I was working on my laptop when I heard a massive explosion which broke the windows. Then the sky lit up like at dawn," she said.

I was working on my laptop when I heard a massive explosion which broke the windows
Bukhara resident

"Hospitals are all full, many are being sent to regional hospitals."

Other residents, quoted on the Russian web site Ferghana.ru, said the explosions had begun about three hours after the fire started and continued until morning.

State new agencies and television did not report the incident until more than 12 hours after the fire broke out.

It is unclear how much damage the explosions have caused.

Ferghana.ru said a train station, a hospital and more than 20 homes were destroyed, but an official from the emergencies ministry later denied the report.

Sealed off

The website reported that Kagan had been sealed off, telephone lines were down and train services to the capital, Tashkent, had been cancelled. The report said the base housed weapons left over from the Soviet-Afghan War.

A regional official, quoted by the Russian RIA-Novosti news agency, appealed for calm and said the fire was out.

Defence Minister Ruslan Mirzayev later visited the base but the threat of further explosions was hampering the investigation, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.


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