updated 7/16/2008 2:16:18 PM ET 2008-07-16T18:16:18

Uzbek authorities have begun a large-scale evacuation of a town rocked last week by powerful explosions at a nearby military base, emergency workers said Wednesday.

The evacuation comes only days after state media in the authoritarian Central Asian nation reported that life had returned to normal in Kagan, a central town of 50,000 people.

A fire at a Soviet-era military base in Kagan spread to an ammunitions depot last Thursday, igniting a series of explosions that authorities say killed three people and injured 21 others.

Witnesses said the blasts continued for hours and shattered windows as far as Bukhara, 8 miles away.

Residents in Kagan are being resettled in temporary accommodations as gas supplies have not yet been restored to their homes, emergency workers contacted by telephone said from Bukhara.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Repeated calls to the country's Emergency Service Ministry for comment were not answered.

Bukhara regional governor Samoyiddin Khusenov appealed for calm in a televised address Tuesday evening and dismissed speculation that further explosions were imminent.

But local residents, who asked not to be named due to sensitivity of the issue, said many people have started to leave Bukhara, a city of about 235,000, fearing more blasts. The emergency workers said the area had not been entirely cleared of shells.

Information is tightly controlled by Uzbekistan's authoritarian government. State television and news agencies did not report the explosions for more than 12 hours after the fire first broke out.

Since its independence in 1991, the country has been ruled by President Islam Karimov, a former Communist boss who has eliminated opposition and silenced critics.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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