Albanian Explosion: up to 160 feared dead

Tirana Explosion destroys billboard

In Gerdec, Albania, a series of explosions at an old munitions depot has killed at least five people (estimates range as high as 160, but the total is sure to be considerably larger than reported so far) and injured over 200. The blasts were so powerful that they were heard over 200 kilometers away, in Skopje, Macedonia.

From the CBC:

The initial blast at the depot at Gerdec village, about 10 kilometres north of the capital, Tirana, set off a series of explosions, and ammunition continued to detonate for hours…Houses more than a kilometre away from the dump were damaged by the blast…Police said the cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, but terrorism was not suspected…

Albania has some 100,000 tonnes of excess ammunition stored in former army depots across the country, according to Defence Minister Fatmir Mediu.

At the site were an international team of 110 munitions experts, including some American civilian contractors, who were dismantling the old army depot in accordance with requirements for Albania’s expected entry into NATO next month. Government officials have received offers of assistance from Italy, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, the United States, and France.

From the Guardian:

People suffering with burns, concussions and broken limbs were rushed to local hospitals following the blasts, believed to have begun while teams were dismantling munitions at a store base. Many of the injuries were a result of flying glass or shrapnel.

“We do not know the exact number, but we fear the worst for the three teams, each of 21 people, working there at the time,” said Juela Mecani, spokeswoman for the country’s prime minister, Sali Berisha. “Several were US citizens.”

A spokesman for the Albanian interior ministry, Avni Neza, said army and police forces were trying to reach the area in armoured cars. “Helicopters have not yet managed to land because the explosions continue,” he said.

From Reuters, some additional background on how the explosions occurred:

The explosions began as Albanian and U.S. teams were moving stocks of World War Two-era bombs, bullets and shells stored at the base, a central collection point for the arsenal amassed by Albania’s Stalinist-era dictatorship.

Albania hopes to be invited to join NATO next month.

Many were hurt as enormous shockwaves hit nearby villages and cars passing by on the adjacent highway. A company involved in destroying the munitions said there were 3,000 tonnes of explosive material stocked at the site…

…the first explosion was not that big, allowing many of the estimated 110 workers on the site to get out. “Ten minutes passed before the biggest blast and many workers used this time to flee,” a press statement said.

Eight hours later, the fires continue to burn and live ammunition now lying scattered over the site, some of it dating back to the Second World War, continues to present the very real threat of more deadly explosions.

Albanian explosion on CNNFrom CNN, more background on the situation at the depot:

The army depot is used as a site for ammunition destruction.

Albania has some 100,000 tons of excess ammunition stored in former army depots across the country, according to Defense Minister Fatmir Mediu. He has said the country needs at least $77.8 million to destroy them.

“The problem of ammunition in Albania is one of the gravest, and a continuous threat,” Berisha said. “There is a colossal, a crazy amount of them since 1945 until now.”

He said he did not exclude human error in Saturday’s blast, but added that the ammunition could have exploded spontaneously because of its age.

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Dumb Comment o’ the Day

Not on this site. Goodness me, no: we’ve hardly had one single stupid commenter around since The War of the Albanian Burger Joint Reviewer thang. I mean, give or take, right?

No, this was in that Hall of Fame of Hallowed Commenter Idiocy, YouTube. Check it out for yourself:

kyletjackson (10 hours ago)

What child watches Nat Geo? I did occasionally as a child, but this was not the tone they took, and kids these days shouldn’t be at alevel of literacy so low that this is what to expect. I come from Britain, and we were once the best child readers in the world, now we have dropped to 14th. We were once the top education country in europe, now we are at the bottom, and this is just exhasberating the situation.

Goodness, we wouldn’t want to exhasberate the situation! Reading children is hard enough, especially if they’ve been practicing their poker faces. Sad news it is that literacy standards in Britain have fallen since the intrepid and apparently entirely self-awareness-free kyletjackson attended what s/he would no doubt refer to as “shcool,” but alas, there you have it. But what that fact has to do with understanding a narrated video entirely free of text I have no idea. Perhaps the commenter blames National Geographic undersea specials for the slide? Or then again, perhaps s/he simply meant “vokabewlary?

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gay goth disco fever: the video!

There are no words for this…at least, none in English. Indeed, Bjork is obviously not the only kooky musical Icelander. This may not make Paul Oscar a global superstar, but whatever. It doesn’t matter. He’s still got his poetry.

blame Perez for passing it along.

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Albania strikes again…at George W. Bush

Remember Albanians? We’ve had Albanians around here before (scroll down to the 110 comments on this post for a blast of old Albania). We know what they’re like.

And now, apparently, so does the Decider: watch at about 54 seconds in and see the expensive timepiece on Bush‘s wrist. Then see a friendly Albanian hand wrap right around that wristwatch and see that same Deciderish wrist at minute 1:04, now a watch-free zone.

Nothing says “Borat Doesn’t Live Here” like a stunt even Borat wouldn’t pull.

Also, please do NOT miss the self-congratulatory text from Albania on the YouTube page. A sample:

10th June 2007
A historic date for all Albanians

President Bush is given a hero’s welcome in Albania. This is the first visit ever of a serving president of USA to visit Albania and will be remembered long time, even though it only lasted eight hours.

Albania is the only country where no one has seen any protests against USA or the President. Some even say the Albanians are the most proamerican people on the planet. This is not a hoax. This is a real deal and there is a reason for it.

Why Albanians love Americans? Simply because americans are a freedom loving people and they showed this love in practice many times in the history of Albanians (and other small nations) by defending the Albania’s right to exists as a state despite the appetite of many world powers and neighboring countries to carve and erase the country from the map. e.g. USA’s President Wilson in 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference, was a crucial voice that saved Albania from being ceased as a state…

p.p.s. Bush dropped his watch, time 00:54!
As you may notice in the video, Bush’s wrist watch dropped at some point, but it has been confirmed by media (VizionPlus TV) that it was found by the bodyguards who handed it over to Lady Bush later on. And you will see in many other videos Bush wearing his watch again while entering Air Force One during departure as he waives back to us. If he had a spare watch, most likely it would have been inside the airplane, therefore, there is no doubt that Bush got his original watch back and everything was accidental. So, don’t worry, be happy, time is still ticking on and everything is in Bush’s hands! Kosovo will be Independent soon, think of 4th July 2007 as the day of happening, where we can celebrate together with Americans, The Independence Day.

Of course, the Times and the Guardian are both reporting that the watch was indeed stolen, but hey, if VizionPlus TV says it was lost, then you can bet your bottom lekë it was lost!

Or can you? Check out this theft-corroborating video from Dutch tv, taken at a different angle. If I’m not wrong, you can actually see the thief flourish it in the air before vanishing into the crowd in time-honored thiefly fashion. The plot, if not the welcome, thickens.

Update: The White House says Bush simply put the watch in his pocket, which would be a nifty trick more suited to someone of the flamboyance of David Blaine or at least Siegfried, if not Roy, given that both his hands were in full view at the time and neither ventured anywhere near his pocketses. And where did that guy on the Dutch video suddenly get that watch? Was Bush just passing them out or something?

Snow also said the crowd was “euphoric because we helped make them free….if there was a problem, the Secret Service would have dealt with it. Trust me.”

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