Explosions at ammo base rain bombs on villages

COLOMBO • Sri Lankan police were racing to defuse unexploded bombs that fell on villages near the capital overnight and destroyed hundreds of homes, after a deadly fire at an ammunition depot.

At least one soldier was burned to death and thousands of villagers fled their homes after the fire broke out at the Salawa military complex, about 36km east of the capital Colombo late on Sunday, triggering a series of explosions that sent shrapnel flying into the air. Nearly 50 people were treated for injuries.

Yesterday, police commandos were deployed to defuse explosives that landed in residential areas.

A photographer saw commandos collecting at least four unexploded rockets, one of which was lodged in the ground outside an abandoned home. "Forensic experts have examined the site and we have just begun clearing the main roads of all unexploded ordnance," said a senior police official.

Local businessman Neville Nishantha fled with his wife and three children as the explosions began and returned yesterday morning to see his house in ruins.

A fire which led to explosions at a Sri Lankan military ammunition depot 36km from the capital, Colombo, hurled bombs and shrapnel towards nearby villages.
A fire which led to explosions at a Sri Lankan military ammunition depot 36km from the capital, Colombo, hurled bombs and shrapnel towards nearby villages. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"A bomb had gone through my roof and hit the living room," he said. "A wall collapsed in the bedroom where my children would have slept."

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the devastated area yesterday and promised to rebuild destroyed homes, his office said. The authorities have yet to establish the cause of the fire.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Explosions at ammo base rain bombs on villages'. Print Edition | Subscribe