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Death toll rises as second explosion hits Ankara industrial park

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 2/3/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Nine people died and two were thought to be trapped Thursday night when a second explosion hit an industrial park that had earlier been the scene of a fatal blast that killed seven workers in Ankara. (UPDATED)

Ten people died and two were thought to be trapped Thursday night when a second explosion hit an industrial park that had earlier been the scene of a fatal blast that killed seven workers in Ankara.

According to daily Hürriyet's website, the second explosion resulted from a vehicle fire that spread to a nearby auto paint workshop, where nine people were reported dead and two others were trapped because of smoke and fire. 

Hours earlier, on Thursday morning, a blast ripped through an industrial facility in the Turkish capital, collapsing two stories of the factory and killing seven people and injuring around 26.

Labor Minister Ömer Dinçer said Friday that the site of the first explosion was a workshop operating without a license, while the second explosion happened at a paint and thinner manufacturing plant operating under a lathe workshop license, Hürriyet reported on its website.

Rescuers continued to comb the debris for casualties throughout the day following the explosion, which was heard several kilometers away.

“Our hope is that there are no other deaths inside the ruins,” Interior Minister Beşir Atalay told reporters at the scene mid-Thursday.

The explosion, which took place at Ankara’s Middle East Organized Industrial Region, or OSTIM, at 11 a.m., ripped off the structure’s glass-covered facade and shattered the windows of nearby buildings. Twisted metal and concrete slabs were strewn around the nearby area, and cars parked in front of the building were completely destroyed.

A witness told the NTV news channel that he saw dozens of people lying on the ground covered in blood before ambulances arrived at the scene.

Fethi Yaşar, mayor for the area, said around half of the factory’s 80 workers had escaped the blast unharmed.

The Ankara Governor’s Office has set up a crisis-management counter to respond to the explosion, Gov. Alaaddin Yüksel said, adding that four of the 28 people hospitalized were in critical condition. Two of those in critical condition died at the hospital Thursday evening.

Twenty-five fire trucks, 10 to 15 ambulances, teams from the Turkish Search and Rescue Association, or AKUT, and National Defense, as well as the Turkish Red Crescent, all arrived on the scene to assist following the blast.

Trained AKUT dogs were unable at times to continue searching for trapped victims because of the extreme heat and gas at certain points in the rubble. Rescue teams also remained on alert due to the risk of the building collapsing.

Initial speculation about the incident included the possibility that compressed natural gas inside the four-story building had exploded.

Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, however, told CNNTürk that the cause of the blast was most likely oxygen tanks at the factory.

Ankara Chamber of Commerce, or ATO, Chairman Sinan Aygün, Industry and Commerce Minister Nihat Ergün and State Minister Zafer Çağlayan all echoed Gökçek’s statement.

Minister Atalay meanwhile told reporters on the scene that the cause of the explosion was still under investigation.

Gürsel Tekin, deputy leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, was among those who came to the scene to survey the damage.

“Technical inspections must be conducted in such places where there is industry and technology. The licenses must also go through technical inspections,” said Tekin. “It’s not just here; this is a problem in many of Turkey’s larger cities.”

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