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Blast at Ecuador Army Base Kills 5

November 21, 2002

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ An explosion tore through an ammunition depot at Ecuador’s largest military base Wednesday, killing five people and injuring about 300, officials said.

Army Gen. Luis Aguas, a brigade commander in Quito, said ammunition apparently detonated at the Galapagos Mechanized Base and caused a second, larger explosion.

He said it wasn’t known what caused the explosion, and communication was cut off with the base in the city of Riobamba, 100 miles south of Quito.

``You could feel a strong explosion that formed a mushroom cloud like a volcano,″ Rosendo Coba, a Red Cross volunteer from Riobamba told Guayaquil’s CRE radio.

Coba said the blasts caused a fire that spilled out of the military base and engulfed a building.

Army spokesman Col. Arturo Cadena told Television Channel 4 that five people _ three civilians and two soldiers _ were killed.

Health Minister Vicente Habze told Guayaquil’s CRE radio that about 300 people were wounded and that relief efforts had been hampered by a power outage in the blast area.

Red Cross spokeswoman Monica Menendez told The Associated Press that the explosion occurred at 4 p.m. and that army helicopters had been sent to Riobamba to evacuate the seriously wounded. People living near the base were also evacuated, officials said.

Windows were reportedly blown out up to a half mile outside of the base.

The majority of Ecuador’s tank units are located at the Riobamba base, which CRE radio reported is the home to about 1,500 soldiers.

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