• US military depot blast, steel plant blaze hit Tokyo

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    EMERGENCIES NEAR TOKYO  (L) Smoke rises from a steel plant beside a river in Kawasaki near Tokyo’s Haneda airport on August 24. A huge blaze broke out in the steel plant, a fire department official said, as television images showed plumes of thick black smoke and flames shooting up into the air. (R) A guard checks a vehicle at the main gate of the US Army Sagami General Depot in the city of Sagamihara, some 40 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, on August 24. A blast ripped through a warehouse at the US military post, sending sparks shooting into the sky and triggering a blaze that burned through the night, but there were no reports of injuries. AFP PHOTOS

    EMERGENCIES NEAR TOKYO
    (L) Smoke rises from a steel plant beside a river in Kawasaki near Tokyo’s Haneda airport on August 24. A huge blaze broke out in the steel plant, a fire department official said, as television images showed plumes of thick black smoke and flames shooting up into the air. (R) A guard checks a vehicle at the main gate of the US Army Sagami General Depot in the city of Sagamihara, some 40 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, on August 24. A blast ripped through a warehouse at the US military post, sending sparks shooting into the sky and triggering a blaze that burned through the night, but there were no reports of injuries. AFP PHOTOS

    SAGAMIHARA, Japan: A blast ripped through a warehouse at a US military post on Monday and started a fire, while a blaze broke out at a steel plant, in separate accidents around the Japanese capital.

    The explosion at the US Army’s Sagami General Depot in the city of Sagamihara, some 40 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, sent sparks shooting into the sky and triggered a blaze that burned through the night, but there were no reports of injuries.

    Japanese and US base firefighters delayed battling the fire while the contents of the building were assessed. Witnesses said they initially feared a bomb had gone off at the military installation.

    The fire died out on its own about six hours after it started shortly before 1 a.m. (1600 GMT), with firefighters standing by.

    “We coordinated with US fire units, and did not spray water as we waited for information related to what was inside,” an official at the Sagamihara fire bureau told AFP, adding that more than a dozen fire engines were sent to the scene.

    Several hours later a huge blaze broke out at a steel pipe plant near Tokyo’s Haneda international airport.

    The Kawasaki city fire department said the blaze at the plant, owned by a unit of giant steelmaker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, may have been caused by workers who were using gas burners to dismantle the site.

    The fire was put out shortly after 1:30 pm local time.

    “The plant had stopped operations in June, and there were not many workers in the facility at the time of the fire,” a company official told AFP, adding that it was to be closed later this year.

    Bomb fears  
    Earlier, dramatic video footage showed large sparks — possibly metal canisters — shooting out like fireworks from the huge fire on the military building’s roof, lighting up the night sky.

    A woman who saw the aftermath of the blast told public broadcaster NHK that she heard repeated thunderous explosions for 10 to 15 minutes.

    “Orange sparks were rising quite high. I couldn’t see smoke but smelled something like gunpowder,” she told NHK.

    The explosion at the depot — which occupies about 200 hectares and employs nearly 600 people — rattled the windows of nearby buildings.

    “I thought the American military facility came under a terrorist attack,” a local security guard told Jiji Press news agency.

    The depot stores supplies and acts as a repair center for military vehicles.

    AFP

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