Fire and explosion at Sri Lankan army camp kills 1 soldier

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A fire that set off explosions and killed a soldier at an army camp near Sri Lanka’s capital has been put out, officials said Monday.

Military spokesman Brig. Jayanath Jayaweera said soldiers had doused the fire, and that although small blasts were still happening they “are not harmful and are happening inside the ammunition dump of the camp.”

The fire broke out Sunday night at the Salawa army camp about 22 miles (35 kilometers) east of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. The fire later spread to an ammunition dump, setting off explosions.

One other soldier was injured, and authorities evacuated thousands of people in the area. Jayaweera said authorities were allowing people to return to their homes, but those living within one kilometer (half a mile) of the camp would have to wait until soldiers check and clear the area.

Jayaweera said it was not known what caused the fire, adding the total cost of the damage was not yet known.

Minister of Law and Order Sagala Ratnayake said the fire started at a small arms depot and then had spread to other depots where heavy weapons, such as artillery shells, were stored.

Pradeep Kodippili, spokesman for Sri Lanka’s disaster management center, said thousands of people living within a five-kilometer (three-mile) radius were initially evacuated.

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