At least seven people were killed and around 13 injured when an RCAF ammunition warehouse exploded in Battambang province in the early hours of Thursday morning, military officials said.
The massive blast at around 2:30 am at RCAF’s 86th Infantry base, located some 2 km from the center of Battambang town, sent artillery shells, rockets and bullets raining down over fields and surrounding houses.
By 11 am, explosions were still erupting from the ruins of the weapons dump where many tons of heavy and light munitions were stored, officials said.
Thirteen houses in the vicinity of the base were razed by explosions and fires started by the blast, and deep holes pockmarked an area of 150 meters around the site.
“We are investigating how the ammunition warehouse exploded,” said On Chri Sao Mondul, deputy chief of Battambang military police.
It was too early to draw any conclusions about the blast, he added.
Por Vannak, provincial military police commander, said the numbers of those reported dead and injured varied between six and seven dead and 10 to 13 injured, with at least four critical. It was unclear how many of the dead were military personnel, but several of those injured were soldiers, Por Vannak said.
Battambang provincial police Chief Chuop Pothearith said on Thursday that six civilians living on properties opposite the military base had been killed in the blasts.
RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief Pol Saroeun declined to comment on the explosion Thursday, stating the incident was an issue of national security.
An RCAF official said on condition of anonymity Thursday that the military base was a large compound with no perimeter wall or fence to protect the four munitions warehouses.
He declined to comment on the cause of the blast.