Shrapnel, high security in Turkmen town after blasts

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2011 9:18 PM
Shrapnel, high security in Turkmen town after blasts

By Marat Gurt

ABADAN, Turkmenistan (Reuters) - Army and police units patrolled Abadan on Friday after several explosions were heard in the town close to the Turkmen capital.

Residents of Ashgabat, capital of the gas-rich, secretive Central Asian state, reported hearing several loud blasts coming from nearby Abadan at about 4 pm (7 p.m. EDT) on Thursday and said electricity supplies were intermittent.

The authorities said fireworks had detonated at a storage facility in Abadan due to hot weather. It said there were no casualties or serious destruction.

The website of Turkmenistan's exiled opposition, www.chrono-tm.org, said army ammunition depots were on fire about 20 km (12 miles) outside Ashgabat.

A Reuters correspondent said roads in Abadan, which has a power station serving the capital, were strewn with metal shards and the air was thick with acrid smoke. The streets looked deserted. Despite a heavy police and army presence, the town was not cordoned off and cars could enter freely, although police hurried onlookers away.

The opposition website said: "There is large-scale destruction and victims" as a result of the blasts. The report was accompanied by a picture of a huge plume of smoke rising over the area.

The Turkmen government said in a statement: "The local population is being given all necessary kinds of medical, social and other types of assistance," adding a government meeting on the accident had been chaired by the country's strongman President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Janet Lawrence)