23 hurt as fire and blasts rock Philippines army munitions depot
Twenty-three people were injured when fire and a series of explosions struck a Philippine army munitions depot near the capital's financial district yesterday, officials and witnesses said.
Television footage showed uniformed soldiers carrying some of the injured on stretchers away from a burning building enveloped in black smoke, while three other victims sat on the pavement awaiting medical help.
"I was a few metres away when the fire broke and caused a loud explosion," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato said.
Twenty-three people were treated at a nearby Philippine army hospital, with five soldiers and a civilian among them later moved to other hospitals because they had serious injuries, said Colonel Rovelene Bambao, who is a doctor.
Eight soldiers, seven firefighters and a civilian were among the injured, Detoyato said. The identities of the seven others were not immediately known.
The cause of the blaze which razed the munitions supply depot at the Philippine Army Reserve Command was being investigated, he said.
The fire apparently triggered explosions among munitions stored there, he added.
The building is located a few minutes' drive from the Makati financial district in Manila.
Detoyato said the army had ordered the evacuation of nearby offices and commercial buildings as a precaution.
"There is still a possibility there could be more explosions. The area is still very hot, and ammunition reacts to heat," he said.
The army's deputy spokesman, Captain Anthony Bacus, told reporters he heard a series of small blasts "like firecrackers" as he sat at another army building nearby shortly after the fire alert was raised.
"After about 15 minutes there was a huge explosion," he added.