An ammunition dump exploded at Phnom Penh airport on Thursday (16 March) in a four-hour series of blasts.
An ammunition dump exploded at Phnom Penh airport on Thursday (16 March) in a four-hour series of blasts. Although no-one was hurt in the explosions, thousands of shells, rockets and mortar bombs blew up at the site at the edge of the airport runway.
Official sources said the blasts were the result of an accident and not sabotage.
The ammunition dump burned for six hours and aircraft had to be moved from flying debris. Some of the exploding rockets hit the airport's runway and dozens of people living in the area fled for their lives. Farm houses a quarter of a mile (approximately 1/2 Km.) away were flattened by the blasts. The airport is only four miles (6 Kms) from the centre of the capital.
SYNOPSIS: The airport at Phnom Penh was rocked by a four-hour series of explosions on thursday as a large ammunition dump at the field blew up. Although no-one was hurt, the force of the explosions flattened houses a quarter of a mile away.
Thousands of shells, rockets and mortar bombs blew up and the resulting fires burned for six hours. Aircraft had to be moved form flying debris as the blasts continued. The military command has said that the blasts were caused by accident and not by sabotage. The airport, four miles from the city centre came under heavy communist attack twice last year, and is the Khmer Republic's biggest military air base.
Dozens of people living near the area fled for their lives as the blasts continued. But the country's small air force of abut forty military and civilian aircraft were protected from damage by the high dykes which stopped most of the fragments. The airport was opened for full operations two days later. The Military Command says the blasts may have been started by troops burning long grass as a security measure. the city's last big ammunition dump explosion was in May, 1971, at a sports field in the centre of Phnom Penh. It was started by a cooking fire.