22 October 2006

Serbian Army Depot Rocked by Bombs

Huge explosions rock Serbian army depot
October 19, 2006 7:14 AM
PARACIN, Serbia-A series of fiery explosions rocked a Serbian army ammunition depot early Thursday, injuring at least 20 people and damaging several buildings in a nearby industrial town, police and hospital officials said.
A Serbian Army helicopter battles a fire after a series of explosions in a military warehouse near the Serbian town of Paracin, some 120km (75 miles) south of the capital Belgrade October 19, 2006.
The explosions at the army barracks on a hill near Paracin, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Belgrade, sent huge balls of flames into the sky, and state TV footage showed a cloud of gray smoke billowing from the site.
Hospital officials said about 20 people, mostly from Paracin, were treated for wounds caused by broken glass and flying shrapnel. One patient was hospitalized after suffering a shock, they said.
Many Paracin residents, who were woken up by the powerful blasts that shattered windows and damaged several houses, spent the night on the streets.
Interior Minister Dragan Jocic said there was "huge material damage in the whole area of Paracin in at least eight blasts of a range of different explosives." Ecology minister Aleksandar Popovic said there was no danger of a poison leak.
The cause of the blasts, which started at around 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) and lasted for hours, was not known, police said. Radomir Mladenovic, an investigative judge speaking in Paracin, said that the authorities were not ruling out a sabotage.
"The explosion was triggered by a smaller quantity of explosives that went off outside the indoor storage facility," he said.
Paracin residents said the area resembled a war zone.
"There was major panic in the town as people did not know what was happening," said Dragica Jovanovic, a Paracin resident.
"It was worse than during the NATO bombing," she added, referring to the alliance's air strikes against the same army compound in April and May of 1999 when NATO intervened in Serbia to stop a violent government crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists.
Because of the explosions, the authorities sealed off the industrial town and closed the main highway leading from the capital, Belgrade, to Serbia's second largest city of Nis that passes near the barracks.
Defense Minister Zoran Stankovic said the barracks, which stored large quantities of ammunition and explosives, were evacuated after the first blast which triggered a tremor felt several kilometers (miles) away.