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Turkish Gas Station Blast Injures 200

July 6, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Explosions at a liquefied petroleum gas station injured nearly 200 people Saturday, officials said, after a fireball was launched into the air as a wedding reception was being held upstairs.

The explosions in a low-income district occurred while a tanker was discharging LPG at the station, the Anatolia news agency reported. The exact cause of the explosion was not known.

Firefighters soon brought the flames under control, but thick smoke still filled the sky. The blaze also spread to three nearby homes, but those fires were quickly extinguished.

Health Minister Recep Akdag said some 180 people sought treatment in hospitals. Many of them were promptly released, but some 40 were hospitalized _ at least 11 with serious injuries, Akdag told NTV television.

Mahmut Koc, a chief medic at Ankara’s Numune hospital, said some 50 injured arrived there seeking treatment. Six were in serious condition, he told private NTV television. At least 50 more people were registered at six other hospitals.

One witness, Senol Kucukosman told private NTV television he saw the bride leave the area in tears. The hall holds about 300 people.

``First the sky lit up and then there was a huge fireball,″ said Caner Senyuva, who witnessed the explosion from a high-rise.

Police evacuated the area.

CNN-Turk television showed police helping a man with apparent burns on his torso and neck. Other people were shown being taken away on stretchers.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other ministers visited the scene and the injured. Akdag said the government would introduce regulation to bar LPG stations from residential areas.

Liquefied petroleum gas cars, which use a combination of gases including propane and butane, are popular in Turkey because the fuel is cheap. Some groups have raised safety concerns, saying that cars powered by the gas catch fire more easily than standard gasoline powered cars.

Update hourly