Explosions at Venezuela Arms Depot

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 31, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Explosions at Venezuela Arms Depot


Byline: Ian James Associated Press

MARACAY, Venezuela -- A fire and a series of explosions tore through a military arms depot Sunday, killing one person and leading authorities to evacuate thousands of people.

About 10,000 residents were removed to safety from areas up to several miles from the site as the burning ammunition produced powerful blasts, officials said.

The cause of the pre-dawn fire was unclear. Hours after the initial explosions, faint booms could still be heard in the distance as clouds of white smoke rose from the area alongside hills in Maracay, 60 miles west of Caracas.

"It's under control but there is still risk," President Hugo Chavez said as he visited firefighters and other officials in Maracay. He noted that the blasts hurled some explosives such as grenades long distances into surrounding communities, and urged caution.

Officials were searching nearby neighborhoods for any stray explosives, Aragua state Gov. Rafael Isea told the state-run Venezuelan News Agency.

Chavez praised officials for a swift response. "An event like this could have produced ... a much bigger tragedy," he said.

Chavez wondered aloud what might have caused it, saying: "A fire there is odd, and at that hour."

Vice President Elias Jaua said earlier on state television that authorities were investigating -- and suggested they weren't ruling out sabotage.

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