Munitions depot blasts prompt evacuation of Kazakh town

Caravanserai and AFP

NUR-SULTAN -- A series of explosions at a southern Kazakh munitions depot Monday (June 24) led authorities to evacuate a nearby town of 40,000 and saw dozens reportedly hospitalised.

The blasts near the town of Arys were caused by "a fire, which led to the explosion of some of the ammunition [at the depot]", the Defence Ministry said in a statement. Security concerns prompted authorities to evacuate the town.

Social media users shared videos of residents fleeing the area with huge plumes of smoke rising towards the sky in the backdrop.

The ministry said there had been no deaths or injuries recorded. But Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Kazakh service reported more than 50 hospitalised, citing sources at two hospitals in the south of the country.

Three patients in a hospital in Shymkent, a city of one million, were in serious condition, RFE reported.

The town will be evacuated "completely" on Monday, said the leader of the region where Arys is situated.

"Given the scale of what is happening, we see that we need to evacuate the city as a whole," Umirzak Shukeyev, governor of Turkistan, said in comments published by Tengrinews.

"We will investigate the causes," said Deputy Minister of Defence Timur Dandybayev, according to Nur.kz.

Defence Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev has gone to the scene to personally monitor the situation, according to the ministry.

Personnel from the military and the Turkistan Emergency Situations Department have been deployed to the fire, according to the Emergency Situations Committee.

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