Stricken almost a year ago by a massive arms explosion that reportedly killed scores, residents of Abadan are now preparing to move, en masse, under a new government plan. But why, when Turkmenistan’s authorities still will not admit the town suffered more than a little cosmetic damage?
Little is known of the new plans, except that the location will be a few kilometers closer to Ashgabat, in the Ruhabat District. The company that eventually wins the construction tender will be responsible for everything from sewer pipes to apartment blocks, roads and electricity infrastructure. Authorities are accepting proposals until June 6.
Initially, when the explosion occurred on July 7, 2011, authorities denied both that there had been an explosion and that anyone had died. But with residents’ videos airing on Russian-language newscasts and reappearing on international news sites, after three days authorities admitted that a fireworks factory had caught fire in the summer heat and that 15 people had died. A month later, authorities declared “life was back to normal in Abadan.”
The official death toll contrasted sharply with independent reports claiming that approximately 200 civilians died when an ammunition storage facility exploded in Abadan’s outskirts. The government reportedly buried victims in mass graves as part of their cover-up. Months later, residents were still complaining that repairs were superficial and that the city was in shambles. In February, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov officially declared that Abadan would be moved and rebuilt.
As usual, there is little information available about authorities’ true intentions. But one thing is likely: Once residents are moved, it will be even more difficult to find out what actually happened last July.