Thursday, 15 April 2010

At least 9 dead as blasts hit Myanmar festivities

YANGON, Myanmar — Three explosions ripped through traditional New Year festivities in Myanmar's biggest city Yangon Thursday, killing at least nine people and injuring 60 others, officials said.

There was no indication who was behind the blasts, which occurred at about 3 p.m. near some 20 pavilions erected for the celebrations, close to the city's Kandawgyi Lake. Myanmar is celebrating the annual four-day water festival, when people drench each other with water to usher in the Myanmar New Year on Saturday.

It was also not clear if the blasts were caused by explosives or were accidental.

Bombings are rare but not unknown in the cities of Myanmar, whose military rulers are fighting several insurgencies in remote provinces. The pro-democracy movement led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been based on the principle of nonviolence.

Witnesses said the emergency ward of Yangon General Hospital was sealed off to outsiders after at least 30 injured people were rushed there. One said the hospital was a scene of chaos and commotion, with injured arriving drenched in blood and people crying and moaning.

A hospital official said nine people were killed and 60 wounded, and the death toll was expected to rise. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information.

The casualties were not officially confirmed. No one has taken responsibility for the blasts, and the military government did not immediately comment.

"Truckloads of police have circled the area and police had arrived with sniffer dogs," said 24-year old Thant Zaw, a witness contacted by phone.

A hospital official said the casualties so far did not include any foreigners, though the festival is a tourist attraction.

It was the worst such incident since May 2005 when a series of bombs exploded at two upscale supermarkets and at a convention center, killing 19 people and injuring more than 160 others.