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4 dead, 170 injured in Albania blast

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — A massive explosion at an Albanian army ammunition dump near Tirana has killed at least four people and injured more than 170 people, including many children. The country’s prime minister says he believes there could be many dead.

The office of Prime Minister Sali Berisha says that four people have been found dead near the site of the explosion. Earlier, Berisha said that it seems the number of the dead is considerable.

The initial blast set off a series of explosions, and ammunition is continuing to detonate. Health Minister Nard Ndoka says about 170 people, including many children, have been injured.

Berisha, a cardiologist, visited victims in hospitals in Tirana and said at least four of those injured were in serious condition. He said most of the injured were suffering from burns and psychological shock.

The army depot, which is used as a site for destroying excess ammunition, is at Gerdec village, about six miles north of the capital, Tirana. The blast was heard more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) away, and people fled from nearby villages.

Flights were suspended at Mother Teresa Tirana International Airport for at least 30 minutes.

The problem of ammunition in Albania is one of the gravest, and a continuous threat, Berisha said. There is a colossal, a crazy amount of them since 1945 until now. I do not exclude human error, he said about Saturday’s blast, but added that the ammunition could have exploded spontaneously because of its age.

Interior Minister Bujar Nishani said 25 people living near the depot had taken shelter in a tunnel used to store tanks, and that army and police armored vehicles were sent to rescue them.

We are closely following the situation and everything is under control, Nishani told reporters.

President Bamir Topi, speaking on Albanian television, called for calm, to avoid panic and chaos.

Albin Mecaj, 22, who works at the depot, told the AP by telephone that about 80 people had been working on destroying ammunition at the time of the explosion. Mecaj, who was badly burned in the blast, said that usually about 120 people are working there.

Houses more than a mile away were damaged by the blast, an AP photographer at the scene said. E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

4 dead, 170 injured in Albania blast – found here.


March 15, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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