row over location of sri lankan military complex as police race to defuse unexploded weaponry
SRI Lankan police were on Monday (6) racing to defuse unexploded bombs that fell on villages near the capital Colombo overnight and destroyed hundreds of homes, after a huge and deadly fire at an ammunition depot.
At least one soldier burnt to death and thousands of villagers fled their homes after fire broke out at the Sal awa military complex last Sunday
(5). It triggered a series of explosions that sent shrapnel flying into the air. Local television stations showed rocket propelled grenade (RPG) shells and shrapnel that had landed in the middle of a road.
The cause was not immediately known and the government ordered an investigation by the police crimi nal investigation department.
“The fire started in a small arms store and spread. There were heavy weapons such as artillery shells sto red in the proximity but the damage is still unknown,” Sagala Ratnayake, minister of law and order, said.
Local businessman Neville Nis hantha fled with his wife and three children as the explosions began and returned on Monday morning to see his house in ruins.
“A mortar bomb had gone through my roof and hit the living room,” Nishantha said. “A wall collapsed in the bedroom where my three chil dren would have slept.”
On Monday, Special Task Force police commandos were deployed to defuse multi-barrel
rockets, artillery rounds, rocket-propelled
grenades and mortar bombs which landed in residential areas.
Former president Mahinda Raja paksa said his administration had planned to relocate the ammunition dump before he was defeated in the January 2015 election.
“My government had plans to re locate this ammunition depot but the new government has failed to execute it,” he said.
Prime minister Ranil Wickremes inghe visited the devastated area on Monday and promised to rebuild destroyed homes, his office said.
Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the national security council was due to review the blast.
“This is a military matter and they must investigate if this was an acci dent or sabotage,” said Senaratne.
Since the end of a 26-year
war against Tamil separatist guerrillas seven years ago, Sri Lanka’s military has stored its weapons in a few armouries around the country. Army spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera said the Salawa armoury was one of the largest in the island nation.
Rohitha Fernando, chief operating officer at Colombo Fire Brigade, said firefighters could not reach the site due to the intensity of the explosions.
“None of the trucks has entered the camp as it’s not safe to go inside. We have not handled this magnitude of armoury fire,” he said. (AFP, Reuters)