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Turkmen Return To Town Devastated By Explosions


WATCH: Mobile-phone video captured by a witness shows flames rising from a military armory in the Turkmen town of Abadan.

People are returning today to the Turkmen town of Abadan, a day after massive explosions prompted thousands to flee and reportedly caused widespread destruction, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

The official Turkmen government website reported that there were no injuries as a result of the explosions and only some minor damage. It said the blasts were due to a large amount of fireworks exploding in a warehouse because of high temperatures.

But eyewitnesses spoke of many people killed and injured after a powerful explosion at a weapons depot sprayed fire and ammunition throughout the town.

The first explosion on July 7 afternoon in Abadan, which is about 20 kilometers from central Ashgabat, destroyed some homes and buildings and set off a series of smaller explosions as bullets and bomb fragments rained down on the town.

Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL there were dozens of casualties, at least, most of them soldiers who were working at the military base where the armory is located.

Thousands of residents of Abadan fled to the capital, Ashgabat, and smaller towns nearby such as Geok-Tepe. The fire engines were unable to get close to the weapons depot because of the exploding projectiles.

A woman who lives in Abadan and spoke on condition of anonymity told RFE/RL today that "a lot of people were injured. There are people who have been searching for their relatives, for children, and for their parents."

"Yesterday, there were about 100 ambulances here transporting injured people [to hospitals]," she said. "Also about 150 armored vehicles were deployed [to the town]. There were a lot of medics, police, military who were going back and forth."

The woman continued: "We know only that there was an explosion. We do not have any idea what could have caused it. My daughter told me that there had first been a fire. We cannot even imagine that the scope [of the fire] would be so big. Each time there was a blast it was like there was an earthquake."

People told RFE/RL that many homes, businesses, and schools had been completely destroyed by the blast or resulting fire. Many others were damaged.

Heavy smoke was seen in Ashgabat and small fires were reported on a mountain behind the military base, which also has an air strip.

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