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At least nine people killed after explosion at ammunition depot in Kazakhstan

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By AFP
The explosion occurred at a munitions warehouse in Jambyl province.
The explosion occurred at a munitions warehouse in Jambyl province.   -   Copyright  Anadolu Agency
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A series of violent blasts at an ammunition depot in Kazakhstan have killed at least nine people and injured dozens of others, emergency officials said.

A fire broke out at the compound in the southern region of Jambyl on Thursday evening causing an "explosion of unidentified objects", the Kazakh defence ministry said in a statement.

At least four other people remain missing after the blasts, while more than 80 people were injured. Several nearby villages were evacuated, according to the regional governor.

The victims -- including soldiers and rescue workers -- are being identified, the local emergency ministry added.

According to the Kazakh Defence Ministry, a fire at the Soviet-era depot spread quickly to the ammunition, causing several detonations.

A video shared on Telegram showed a column of smoke rising from a fire amidst trees before a powerful explosion erupted.

"The explosions have stopped but the fire is still going on," the ministry said on Friday, adding that the blast occurred at a military unit warehouse where "engineering ammunition" was stored.

Across the former USSR, explosions in arms depots are common and often caused by negligence, unsafe storage conditions or dilapidated infrastructure.

According to the emergency services, debris thrown up by the explosions has been found within a two-kilometre radius.

"According to preliminary information, more than 500 tonnes of TNT were stored in the warehouse," the source said.

Kazakhstan's Defence Minister Nurlan Ermekbayev told reporters that he was ready to resign over the incident, but that it was up to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to decide.

A commission has been set up to establish the cause of the fire, with the minister not ruling out the possibility of arson.

Local authorities said they had evacuated nearly 1,200 residents from surrounding villages to the town of Taraz, some 30 kilometres from the site of the explosions.

In 2019, an explosion at a depot near the town of Arys in Kazakhstan's Turkestan region killed two people and injured many others, also prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands.