Armed police raid turns explosive in Katikati
An armed police raid on an old factory in Katikati ended suddenly today when the building caught fire while police were searching it.
Local people in the Western Bay of Plenty town reported a series of explosions and heavy black smoke during the raid.
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In a statement police say that at around 11.30am they executed a drugs warrant at an old mower factory in Park Road, Katikati with the assistance of the Armed Offenders Squad.
As they were doing the search the fire broke out.
"There was a significant amount of smoke as a result of the fire so police temporarily evacuated a small number of people from nearby buildings as a precaution," the police say. No one was injured.
The area has been secured and police are waiting for it to cool down before conducting an investigation.
Police noted media quoting local people saying the scene was a methamphetamine lab.
"Police are unable to confirm whether this is the case as it is not possible at this stage to examine the scene of the fire."
They say two men and a woman are being interviewed by police. Eyewitnesses say one of the men taken away was wearing Mongrel Mob regalia.
Shortly after the explosions armed police, wearing breathing masks, directed people go get back saying the fire was a health hazard.
A witness who was at the scene says about 10 police cars were at the scene half an hour before the explosions were heard. She says a helicopter was also hovering overhead before any explosions took place.
Police, Fire Service and ambulance were at the scene.