Weapons depot explodes on Taiwan-held island

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2005, 12:00am

An ammunition depot on Taiwan's defensive outpost of Matsu exploded last night, leaving two officers missing Taiwanese media and defence officials said.

About 70 servicemen were evacuated from their camp on the frontline island, just off the coast of Fujian province .

'All military personnel were evacuated immediately after the explosion,' Defence Ministry spokesman Liu Chih-jian said.

Mr Liu said various types of discarded weapons and explosives were being stored at the depot and that the explosion would be investigated. 'We will set up a special investigation team to look into the cause of the explosion,' he said.

The blast occurred just before 9pm and was heard all over the small island, local television reports quoted witnesses as saying.

The Matsu Defence Command called in firefighters to help contain the blaze and threw a cordon around the depot. But flames were still seen two hours later, causing panic among civilians who were concerned that the fire might spread to a nearby petrol station.

The military ordered the evacuation of two villages near the blast site, but ministry officials said there had not been any civilian casualties so far.

The officials admitted, however, that two officers could not be accounted for.