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Russia explosion and fire at munitions depot forces 2,000 to flee

The Independent logo The Independent 08/10/2020 Kate Ng
a truck that is driving down the road © Provided by The Independent

Thousands of residents have been evacuated from villages in close proximity to a munitions depot in western Russia that was engulfed in flames on Wednesday, triggering huge explosions and injuring at least six people.

Authorities said the fire at the arsenal in the Ryazan region, southeast of Moscow, had been sparked by a wildfire in dry grass nearby, causing the munitions to explode continuously.

Over 400 firefighters battled the huge blaze into Wednesday evening, as television footage of the incident showed flames and billowing plumes of smoke rising into the sky above the depot.

Videos of the incident were shared on social media as powerful explosions shook the area. A witness in one video said shrapnel and ash was falling from the sky.

The depot housed 100 storage facilities and contained 75,000 tonnes of missiles and artillery munitions, according to the RIA news agency, and emergency services said rounds could be heard exploding every five to 10 seconds.

Regional governor Nikolai Lyubimov said in a statement that the situation was “complex”, but added that “the worst is behind us, the situation is under control”.

Video: Smoke fills sky as Russian ammo depot burns (Sky News)

More than 2,300 residents living in at least 14 villages within a five-kilometre radius of the depot were evacuated and a nearby motorway was closed. Six people sustained injuries from the incident and five of them taken to hospital, TASS news agency cited a source as saying.

The Defense Ministry said that 189 troops backed by four heavy firefighting planes, three helicopters and drones were deployed to help contain the blaze, and a deputy defence minister attended the scene to coordinate emergency efforts.

According to The Moscow Times, a criminal investigation has been opened into the incident to investigate potential breaches of rules on handling weapons.

Fires and explosions at old munition depots are common in Russia, and have drawn criticism of lax safety standards.

Additional reporting by agencies

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