Turkmenistan: 100 Die in Arms Depot Explosion, Says Russian Media Report
Contradictory reports have been received about the explosion in the town of Abadan about 16 kilometers outside Ashgabat, with officials reporting that the accident was caused by fireworks exploding, there are no casualties, and damage is minimal, yet independent sources claiming there are many killed and wounded and the blaze is out of control, fergananews.com reports.
A Russian-language news portal on Central Asia, news-asia.ru, had a report from its correspondent who covers Turkmenistan that according to unofficial estimates, about 100 people had already been killed in the explosion at the arms depot in Abadan.
There was no independent confirmation of the report and the Turkmen government denied yesterday that there were any casualties. Russian media has in the past sometimes exaggerated situations in Turkmenistan, as relations are strained between the two countries over a number of energy and political issues.
The Russian site news-asia.ru said Abadan is in flames, and weapons continue to explode everywhere. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed; some buildings, such as School No. 8, have burned to the ground, and a kindergarten has disappeared into the earth.
Meanwhile, in the capital, state television has a news blackout on the tragedy, and is running musical programs, residents report.
The explosion was said to be caused by negligence and failure to observe safety precautions when a military vehicle broke down, igniting stores of ammunition which have continued to explode under the high temperatures, says news-asia.ru. Turkmen media has reported temperatures of 104-107 °F in recent days.
News-asia.ru interviewed some survivors who saw their homes go up in flames. One man, Bezigren Achylov, said his house was destroyed and he miraculously escaped:
Shards of shells completely blew away the roof of the house. Dozens of homes have been seized by fire, there are wounded people on the street, and dead as well. The roads are covered with blood. Local residents are also stumbling over fragments of dead bodies. There is chaos and panic in the city. We have no news about our relatives who also live in Abadan, since mobile telephone connection is practically completely turned off, and the city telephones don't work. The Internet is also blocked. Residents are being actively evacuated.
Authorities are continuing to send in rescue workers, doctors, soldiers, and armored personnel carriers, says new.asia.ru, apparently in response to reports that looters have been arming themselves.
The western part of Ashgabat is without electricity, as it is supplied by a power station in Abadan, which shut down when its workers fled the explosion. There is concern that the power station itself is in danger of exploding.
A close look at Google maps shows that the area believed to be the arms depot is a large tract with low warehouses and stacks of boxes and lumber, near apartment buildings and roads not far from the center of Abadan.
The independent emigre site chrono-tm.org continues to report from the region, saying that the village of Gunesh, outside the city of Abadan to the southwest, seems to have suffered the most, as eyewitnesses are reporting a lot of destroyed buildings and many people who cannot find their children.
Witnesses told chrono-tm.org that they saw four dead bodies of males, and a small child of about 3 years of age with severely burned legs who was not crying.
As is often the case with emergencies in this region, there are reports of people gouging cab fares from workers in Ashgabat who were desperate to get to their homes in Abadan to find their relatives.
Calls to the Defense Ministry went unanswered, and no help lines have been announced on television, says chrono-tm.org. People attempting to call to Turkmenistan from abroad are not getting through.