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Kazakhs Block Road, Demand Answers From Authorities Following Deadly Ammo Blasts

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SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan Hundreds of people have rallied in a southern Kazakh city and blocked a major road, demanding to be relocated following a series of explosions at an ammunition warehouse that killed three people.

The authorities have tried to convince residents of Arys, where the military warehouse is located, to return home, but angry protesters have demanded more explanations from officials.

Governor Omirzaq Shokeev on June 27 told reporters in Shymkent, a major city 80 kilometers east of Arys, that buses would begin shuttling evacuees back to Arys beginning on June 28.

Earlier, hundreds who fled the town blocked a major street in Shymkent, saying they were afraid to go back.

The June 24 incident at the Arys warehouse killed three people and sent plumes of smoke soaring into the air, and shock waves rattling buildings across the town.

It was the latest in a series of explosions to hit the depot since 2009.

Speaking to protesters gathering outside a mosque in Shymkent, Shokeev tried to reassure residents, and tried to dispel rumors that the explosions had released radiation into the air.

New houses will be built for you in Arys. If you wish, you can sell them later and move wherever you want, Shokeev said.

Protesters have argued that the government should relocate them.

Hundreds of people who gathered outside the mosque later marched toward the central square and tried to enter the local headquarters of the ruling NurOtan party, but police prevented them from entering.

A state of emergency was declared in the region after the explosions, and the local government announced the evacuation of the town’s almost 45,000 residents.

Around 35,000 people had already fled Arys before the authorities announced the evacuation.

Kazakh President QasymZhomart Toqaev has vowed to punish the people responsible for the situation and promised financial support to those affected.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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