MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- At least three people were killed and 21 wounded Thursday when a fire at a Soviet-era military base in Uzbekistan spread to an ammunition depot, setting off a series of explosions, officials said.
Soldiers evacuated residents in the town of Kagan as they tried to contain the fire, said Uzbekistan government spokesman Bakhtiyar Khasanov.
The blasts and fire destroyed a helicopter base, a hospital, a railway station and about 20 houses, the independent Ferghana news agency said.
An official from Uzbekistan's Emergency Situations Ministry later denied that report, The Associated Press said.
The country's official television and news agencies did not report the blasts for more than 12 hours after the fire first broke out late Wednesday, according to the AP.
"We were woken up in the middle of the night and everybody came out onto the street," a woman in Kagan told the AP by phone, asking to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.
Kagan, with a population of about 50,000, is a major local railway hub.
Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, north of Afghanistan.
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