Massive blast at Iran military base kills 27
Witnesses say they thought the explosion, felt 30 miles away, was an earthquake
A massive explosion at a military arms depot near the Iranian capital killed 27 people on Saturday, in what officials were treating as an accident.
Sixteen other people were wounded, some critically, in the blast at a Revolutionary Guards base near Tehran. Authorities are treating the explosion -- which was felt for miles around -- as an accident.
A spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards -- Iran's elite military force -- said the blast happened as troops were moving munitions at a base in Bidganeh, near the town of Shahriar.
"My dear colleagues in the Revolutionary Guards were moving munitions in one of the arsenals at that base when, due to an incident, an explosion happened," Ramezan Sharif told state TV news channel IRINN.
"Some of the wounded are reported to be in a critical condition," he added.
Residents in western suburbs of Tehran, nearly 30 miles away, told Reuters they had felt the blast, with some assuming it to be a low-level
The explosion happened around noon (0830 GMT) and the fire continued to rage for hours. Surrounding streets were closed and reporters were kept away from the scene.
Some media reported there had been two explosions and the head of Iran's Red Crescent organization said there was a risk of further blasts.
Mahmoud Mozafar told the Mehr news agency that only six paramedics had been allowed into the Amir Al-Momenin military base and that thick smoke was hampering the rescue operation.
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There were no reports linking the blast to any air strike or other attack. Tension has risen in recent weeks between Iran and its enemies Israel and the United
Sharif denied what he said was speculation in the Western media that the military base was linked to Iran's nuclear program.
"This blast is not related to any nuclear tests that some foreign media have reported," he told Mehr.
Tehran denies Western accusations, that were given some credence by a report from the UN nuclear agency this week, that its nuclear program has military ends.
On Oct. 12 last year a similar blast at a Revolutionary Guards munitions store killed and wounded several servicemen in Khoramabad, western Iran. Authorities said that explosion was an accident.