MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Authorities said Thursday that they are investigating conflicting reports about the cause of a string of explosions at a major military complex in Managua.
There were no reported injuries in the explosions and fire Wednesday night at the El Chipote military installation, but the Red Cross said that about 100 patients at a 350-bed military hospital were forced to evacuate the building.
Nurses and soldiers carried dozens of dazed patients--many still connected to intravenous tubes--from Alejandro Davila Bolanos Hospital on stretchers and beds. Other patients left on crutches and in wheelchairs.
The military complex includes the headquarters of the General Directorate of State Security, an army training school and the hospital, the nation's largest.
The blasts opened a 15-foot hole in a concrete retaining wall just east of the hospital, blew out windows in nearby homes and downed power lines up to a half-mile away in the southwestern section of Managua. Rubble from the explosions covered streets up to 500 yards away.
Left 8-Foot Crater
It was not clear where the explosions were centered, but soldiers said the main blast left an eight-foot crater near the hospital kitchen.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said authorities were investigating the cause of the explosions, but it was too early to determine their cause.
There was no immediate comment about the blasts from rebels fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government.
The pro-Sandinista newspaper El Nuevo Diario said the explosions were caused by a fire that spread to a butane gas tank in the hospital kitchen, but the report could not be independently confirmed.
Because sounds like gunshots followed the first explosions, some speculated that the fire may have ignited munitions stored at the military complex. But the official radio said bomb squads immediately removed explosives from the area, and firefighters said they contained the blaze in less than 20 minutes.