South Asia

Sri Lanka lowers death toll from police station blast

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Media captionThe BBC's Charles Haviland reports on what is known about the incident

Officials in Sri Lanka say 25 people were killed in an accidental explosion at a police station, lowering the toll from the 60 deaths given earlier.

Explosives meant for road building blew up as they were being handed over to a Chinese construction firm, Maj Gen Ubaya Medawala told the BBC.

He said 16 policemen, seven civilians and two Chinese were killed and 52 others injured.

Sabotage has been ruled out as a cause of the explosion in eastern Sri Lanka.

The general said the cause of the explosion was unknown and an investigation had begun.

He said the explosives were being loaded on to several vehicles at the police station when one of them blew up, setting off the other explosives.

A local journalist has reported that a police jeep accidentally crashed into the trucks, says the BBC's Charles Haviland in Sri Lanka.

The police station, in the small town of Karadiyanaru, was destroyed by the blast. Pictures from the scene showed the twisted wreckage of the lorries and heaps of rubble.

Most of the injured were taken to hospitals in Batticaloa, but four critically injured people were flown to the capital, Colombo.

Chinese firms are heavily involved in road building and other construction in Sri Lanka, including two ports.

The Batticaloa area was once controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebel group and remains one of the most politically tense in the country, says our correspondent.

Since the Tamil Tigers' defeat last year after a long-running civil war, the government has begun to rebuild roads and other infrastructure in the region.

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