FILE PHOTO: A view of an underground missiles depot in an undisclosed location, Iran. REUTERS

DUBAI, Jan 16 (Reuters) – Loud blasts heard in several cities in western Iran early on Sunday were the result of thunderstorms that caused panic among some residents, an interior ministry official said.

“After liaising with the relevant security and military agencies, it was determined that the sounds were caused by thunder and lightning and no special incident occurred,” Majid Mirahmadi told the state news agency IRNA.

Earlier, the governor of the western town of Asadabad had ruled out the possibility of thunderstorms as the source of reported loud blasts heard in several Iranian cities and towns.

After several similar incidents in recent months, authorities said that the Iranian military was holding unannounced air defence drills amid rising tensions over Iran‘s nuclear programme with Israel and the United States.

“The intensity of the sound in some places was such that doors and windows of houses shook and people left their houses,” the Rokna news website said on its Telegram channel.

Israel has long threatened military action against Iran if indirect talks with Washington and Tehran fail to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact that then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Angus MacSwan)