NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A pre-dawn explosion at an army munitions depot in breakaway northern Cyprus shattered window panes and slightly injured 12 people while fires ignited by the blast were brought under control, officials said Thursday.
In a statement, Turkey’s defense ministry said the explosion occurred at a depot under the Turkish army’s munitions command 6 kilometers (4 miles) east of the port town of Kyrenia at 1:30 a.m. Thursday (2230 GMT Wednesday) and that there were no major injuries as a result of the blast.
Earlier reports suggested that an undetected fire that broke out in the area had triggered the explosion.
Investigators have already launched a probe to determine the blast’s exact cause, the ministry said.
A series of powerful explosions followed the initial blast, video posted on social media showed, causing some bystanders watching the blast to scatter in fear. In one video, shattering glass can be heard following a loud blast as the young woman shooting it screams and runs away from the window.
Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the ethnically divided nation, told reporters that nine of 12 individuals who suffered minor injuries were treated and released from hospital. The other three remain in hospital for observation.
Tatar said soldiers at the depot managed to flee the explosion without suffering any injuries. He said the blast and fire affected an area of roughly 0.2 square kilometers. He said authorities would carefully examine the safety of military installations that are close to residential areas.
Kudret Ozersay, the foreign minister, said that electricity has been cut in the vicinity of the blast while nearby homes had been evacuated. He also urged area residents to use caution as the blast hurled unexploded ordnance over a wide area.
Turkish Cypriot media reported that some tourists staying at the nearby Acapulco hotel were treated for minor injuries. Most of the hotel’s windows and sliding doors where shattered as a result of the explosions. Hotel guests were bussed to other accommodations until work crews could complete repairs.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci urged officials to act in order to protect the north’s tourism product.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.
In July, Turkish Cypriot officials said that a Syrian, Russian-made S-200 anti-aircraft missile that missed its target and reached Cyprus around 120 miles away was the likely cause of an explosion outside a village in the breakaway north.