Death toll rises in Albania blast - many feared dead, premier says
Five people were confirmed dead and 244 injured in a munitions depot blast Saturday near the Albanian capital Tirana, but many more were still unaccounted for as explosions continued to rock the site Sunday morning. ( dpa )
Three of the dead have been identified so far, Prime Minister Sali Berisha told a late Saturday night press briefing, voicing concern for the 121 employees who were in the military complex at Gerdec, on the outskirts of the capital, when the explosions started.
Many of the injured were caught by the blast - heard 200 kilometres away in the Macedonian capital Skopje and registered as an earthquake by seismographs in Strasbourg - outside the depot, on the nearby highway or in tier homes.
Many of the homes inside the 4-kilometre perimeter are guarded by police and not yet searched for casualties or the wounded.
The Gerdec compound comprised four military munitions depots, of which one was thoroughly destroyed. People were reported to be trapped in the connecting tunnels, but rescuers were kept at bay by flying and exploding ordnance.
Some of the ordnance had been stored there since 1945. A United States company was commissioned to clean out the depots, but the actual work was carried out by Albanian subcontractors, reports said.
Mishandling ordnance may have caused the explosion, officials speculated, denying earlier reports claiming that US citizens and marines were at the scene.
The Albanian authorities had broadcast appeals for blood donations for the injured. Hundreds in Albania and in neighbouring Kosovo rushed to hospitals in response, reports said.