Armoury blast rocks Mozambique's second city

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MAPUTO, Oct 6 (Reuters) Mozambique evacuated residents in the central port city of Beira today after a series of explosions at a government armoury, but no casualties were reported, authorities said.

National defence spokesman Joaquim Mataruca told Reuters that the blasts, which lasted about three hours yesterday, were triggered by a fire set by local residents living close to the close to the armoury.

''We suspect this was a deliberate act, we have set up a commission to look at what exactly transpired and criminal charges would be laid to culprits, this is arson,'' he said.

Mataruca dismissed reports that the incident had been triggered by high temperatures.

''It's unfortunate that some unscrupulous residents ... may have tampered with fire, setting it close to the armoury causing some obsolete weapons to blow up, among them heavy shells, rockets and other light weapons such as hand grenades and AK47 riffles,'' he said without specifying the quantities of obsolete weapons stored in the depot.

A similar accident in March killed 105 people and sent rockets and artillery shells raining down on residential areas around Mozambique's capital Maputo.

In October 2002, an explosion in Beira killed six people, injured 50, and destroyed 130 houses. Left-over arms from that blast exploded in November 2006 and killed two people.

Mozambicans have blamed the government for failing to dispose of tonnes of weaponry left over from the country's civil war in the 1970s and 1980s.

Officials have in the past also cited high temperatures as the cause of the explosions.

REUTERS PY KP2034

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