NUR-SULTAN -- One person has been killed and dozens injured following a series of massive blasts at an ammunition warehouse in southern Kazakhstan that prompted the authorities to evacuate tens of thousands of people, Kazakh officials say.
Defense Minister Nurlan Ermekbaev said a fire erupted in the warehouse town of Arys in the Turkistan region early in the morning causing explosions. The cause of the fire is unclear, he added.
Turkistan Governor Omirzaq Shokeev told reporters that a man was killed by a shell that hit his car while he was trying to escape the area when the blasts started.
Authorities are warning that the situation remains dangerous in the area as the explosions still continue and might last for several days.
Earlier in the day, Shokeev, announced a state of emergency in the region and ordered the immediate evacuation of Arys's 45,000 residents.
Deputy Defense Minister Timur Dandibaev said earlier that firefighters were trying to extinguish a huge fire caused by the blast in the warehouse in the Turkistan region.
Twenty-five people, including five children, were being treated at a hospital in the regional capital, Shymkent, hospital officials told RFE/RL.
Three of the injured were in a serious condition, the hospital’s chief said.
President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev tweeted that he has ordered the country’s Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry, and Turkistan regional authorities to ensure the safety of the local population and investigate the cause of the blast.
A woman from Arys, Zhanat Abilqasymova, told RFE/RL that she and her family members had to leave their house after several shells exploded near their home.
"We just managed to take our identification documents and left the town by car," Abilqasymova said.
RFE/RL correspondents in Shymkent report just some 1,000 residents of Arys were taken to the Aqmeshit Mosque in the city, where they were provided with food and water.
Regional officials said 15 evacuation points have been set up in Shymkent and nearby districts.
The explosions at the military warehouse have been powerful enough to have been registered by the nation's seismic service.