October 23, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Fear and panic spread in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Tuesday when massive explosions and fire erupted at a military factory in the southern suburbs of the city as the authorities failed to clarify the cause of the incident but dismissed rumors of a hostile action behind it.
- Fire engulf the Yarmouk ammunition factory in Khartoum October 24, 2012. - Reuters
Sounds of explosions followed by huge fire occurred at Al-Yarmook arms and ammunition factory of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in Al-Shigara area south of Khartoum at around midnight, sparking a wave of panic among the area’s residents who fled their homes in fear.
The fire and explosions also spread to near-by buildings, leading to the collapse of some of them, as hospitals in the area received dozens of people suffering from severe cases of suffocation due to the smoke.
The explosions also set free large pieces of shrapnel and ammunition which scattered across the area, a Sudan Tribune reporter said.
Fire fighting forces rushed to the scene and helped contain the fire as security forces blocked all roads leading to the large factory. A number of senior officials, including Khartoum State Governor Abdel Rahman Al-Khidir and officers from the National Intelligence and Security Services as well as SAF also arrived at the scene later.
Meanwhile, the authorities made conflicting statements on the cause of the incident but reported that no causalities were incurred as a result.
Khartoum State Governor Abdel Rahman Al-Khidir said in a televised statement that the cause of the incident is not clear yet but he discounted the possibility of foreign entities being involved.
His statement was clearly aiming to quell wildly spreading rumours that the factory was hit by an airstrike. Some witnesses told Sudan Tribune that the explosion occurred after a sound resembling that of a rocket was heard and the sky lit up. There is also a rumor that an airplane carrying military materiel crashed on the site of the factory but Sudan Tribune was not able to independently verify those claims.
Al-Khidir said that the explosion probably happened at the main storage facility of the large factory.
SAF’s spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad said that an internal explosion occurred in one of the storage facilities and the fire spread due to the plenty of grass in the area. He confirmed that they already launched an investigation into the incident.
An anonymous police source also told AFP that the explosion erupted during a routine maintenance operation, adding that the authorities continue to count the losses.
A similar explosion occurred at the same factory in August 2006 leading to the injury of seven SAF members. The authorities attributed the incident at the time to an electric short circuit.