Blasts rock Sri Lanka military ammunition depot
COLOMBO, June 5, 2016 (AFP) – Explosions ripped through a key military ammunition depot just outside Sri Lanka’s capital on Sunday, leading police to evacuate residents and seal off roads in the area, police said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties at the Salawa military camp, where security forces are known to store some of their heavy weaponry and ammunition, including rockets, police said.
Residents in Salawa, 36km (26 miles) east of Colombo, were seen leaving their homes as police reported shrapnel hitting the main highway.
The night sky was lit with an orange glow and the area shook at regular intervals. Flying debris could be seen from three kilometres away, an AFP photographer said.
"We have closed the road and asked all residents to leave out of consideration for their safety," a police officer at the scene told AFP.
Firefighters were stopped from reaching the camp as it was unsafe for them to get close to the source of the explosions. The cause of the blasts was not yet known, said a police officer who asked not to be named as he is unauthorised to speak to the media.
The explosion was the worst at a military installation since the end of Sri Lanka’s decades-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009.
In June 2009, there was a similar, but a much less intense explosion at an army ammunition dump in the northern district of Vavuniya, 250km north of Colombo, leaving several soldiers injured.
Government forces crushed Tamil Tiger rebels in a no-holds-barred military campaign that also triggered allegations of up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians being killed in government bombardments.