(Reuters) -At least six people, including three firefighters, were killed when a truck carrying 60 tons of liquefied natural gas crashed and exploded in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar on Wednesday, according to Mongolia’s officials.
At least 11 people were injured in the fire near the Dunjingarav market, Mongolia’s Emergency Management Office said in a post on Facebook. Its chief G. Ariunbuyan told local media that the agency received a call about the incident at 1:04 a.m. (1704 GMT Tuesday).
More than 600 firefighters in 100 vehicles were involved in putting the fire out, which was eventually extinguished.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the accident, three officers of the 63rd Fire Fighting and Rescue Unit of the National Fire Service were killed while performing their duty,” the Emergency Management said in the post on Facebook.
Preliminary assessment showed that the truck crashed into a small car causing an immediate explosion, then a second blast occurred that ripped off a part of the truck with great force and killed the firefighters at the scene, Mongolia’s Deputy Prime Minister S. Amarsaikhan told TenGer TV.
According to local online news outlets, the fire quickly engulfed several nearby buildings, including a residential building. Scores of cars were burnt.
Russia’s TASS news agency reported that residents of nearby houses were advised to evacuate.
An unnamed resident told TenGer TV that his windows shattered and the balcony was destroyed by the impact of the first blast.
Another said she and other residents had to forcefully break out of their building after flames reached their building exit. She said the fire had already spread to the top floor when they got out.
Eyewitness Erdenebold Sukhbaatar, who lives 100 metres (yards) away from the explosion, said he first thought an earthquake or airplane crash had happened. As he rushed to his living room, he told Reuters he saw an explosion and the fire quickly spreading to the nearby apartment building.
The 40-year-old lawyer live-streamed the event on Facebook.
Amarsaikhan, the deputy prime minister, said there were no casualties reported from the apartment building but “we cannot guarantee that the casualty count will not increase” as investigation and emergency measures were still underway.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne, Xiaoyu Yin in Beijing and Nicoco Chan in Shanghai; Writing by Liz Lee; Editing by Michael Perry)