An accidental blast at an explosives depot in eastern Sri Lanka on Friday killed at least 27 people including two Chinese road builders and devastated a police station, the military said.
Three container loads of munitions being stored at a police station in Karadiyanaru, 235 miles (375 kilometres) by road from Colombo, exploded as officers distributed charges to the Chinese contractors.
The force of the blast obliterated the building and surrounding area, which was littered with rubble, twisted vehicles and bodies. Only the large external walls of the station were left standing, although they were also damaged.
“It’s an accidental explosion. The munitions were kept at the police station for safety reasons. They exploded as police were issuing some munitions to the contractors,” military spokesman Ubaya Medawala said.
Medawala initially gave the death toll as “over 60” but later revised it down to 27. Investigations are ongoing to determine the cause of the blast, which also injured 49 people.
The Chinese contractors were working for state-run China Overseas Holdings Limited, a construction company carrying out building work in the war-ravaged area, according to police spokesman Prishantha Jayakoddy.