Thousands of people had to be evacuated from 14 central Russian villages on Wednesday, following a terrifyingly massive explosion at a military ammunition depot near Ryazan. Sporadic detonations and grass fires continued, spread by gusty winds after 75 tons of artillery shells blew.
Massive explosion rocks central Russia
Russian news agency Tass is reporting that an ammunition depot caught fire, sparking an explosion which sent debris flying for 20 kilometers which is around 12.5 miles. Thousands of residents were forced from their homes in at least 14 separate surrounding villages. A video of the aftermath blames the cause on a common short circuit but that has yet to be confirmed.
According to the press office of the Western Military District, the fire started “near the settlement of Zheltukhino after the grass caught fire.” After that, “gusty wind spread the fire to the artillery ammunition storage site” managed by the military garrison near Ryazan. The following day, that statement was conflicted by a report stating, “a fire broke out on the technical premises of a military base in the Ryazan Region on Wednesday afternoon. Munitions started to explode as a result of the blaze. A criminal case has been opened into the incident and an emergency regime has been introduced in the region.” The firefighting team on the base “started to extinguish the blaze but failed to stop the fire outbreak” to keep it from detonating the horrific explosion.
Miraculously, despite the “sporadic” explosion of munitions all around the “technical premises of the military base,” at first there were no reported injuries. That assessment was updated Thursday to announce “16 people had suffered from the explosions and over 20 buildings had been damaged.” Reports “from the scene say that the military and civilian personnel have been evacuated.” The “fire has not been contained and the shells are exploding about every ten seconds,” one first responder reported.
Planes, trains, and automobiles
Not only did the local fire-fighting and rescue service dispatch teams to the explosion site, the government sent in a “fire-fighting train” while the Soviet version of an air tanker stood by. As Tass related, “An Il-76 plane of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry is ready to join the fire-fighting effort.”
Traffic on the nearby highway was halted following the explosion while “over 1,600 locals, including almost 150 children, have been evacuated from 14 settlements.” Authorities clearly prioritized safety of the local children. “First and foremost, all children have been evacuated from the settlements: 130 schoolchildren and 16 younger children. All of them are currently with their relatives, in a safe zone.”
By Thursday, around 24 hours after the explosion, the fire was reported as contained. “Following the results of the work we have carried out, we can confidently say that the fire has been contained both on the depot’s technical premises and outside it along the entire perimeter.”