TIRANA - A violent explosion at an Albanian army depot on Saturday has killed at least 4 people, injuring another 200, a government statement said.
A man is taken to hospital after an explosion at an army depot near Albania's capital, Tirana, Saturday, March 15, 2008. [Agencies]
The explosion occurred when military experts were dismantling old shells near Vora, about 15 kilometers west of capital city of Tirana, the statement said.
The initial explosion was followed by a series of blasts, and ammunition continued to detonate for hours. The explosion can be heard in Tirana and Durres, the biggest port city of Albania.
"I was having lunch when the explosion occurred. It is like a small earthquake. One of my window glass has been shaken loose by the loud noise," a resident in the capital's embassy area told Xinhua.
Albania's Prime Minister Sali Berisha speaks during a news conference in Tirana March 15, 2008. [Agencies]
More than 150 people from the surrounding area are said to have been injured. And several passengers in a bus passing by has been cut by window glass broken by the explosion wave.
It is not known whether there are any casualties inside the depot. Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said they still have not got the full information about the situation, but believed there could be many dead.
A witness told a local TV that there were at least 50 people working at the site, dismantling weapons, and they were feared killed in the explosion.
Albania has destroyed some 46,000 tons of ammunition it has inherited from the past, and is continuing to scrap excess weaponry, hoping this might help the country get the ticket to a NATO membership at the alliance's April 2-4 summit in Bucharest, Romania.
Albania was the first country to destroy 16,000 tons of chemical agents in July last year through the Nunn-Lugar program, which was launched by two US Senators for the elimination of chemical weapons and other substances.