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|The smoke is rising near Donguz station in the Orenburg region.(RIA Novosti)|
The smoke is rising near Donguz station in the Orenburg region. (RIA Novosti) Video courtesy Youtube user AlexanderBozzz
4,000 tons of shells explode in Central Russia, leave mushroom cloud-like plume of smoke
Published: 09 October, 2012, 13:22
Edited: 18 October, 2012, 02:35
More than 4,000 tons of shells exploded near a military testing ground
some 40 kilometers from the city of Orenburg in Central Russia,
prompting the mass evacuation of two nearby towns.
Those 4,000 tons included 1,379 tons of 100mm shells, 400 tons of air
bombs and 2,300 tons of 280mm reactive shells, the head of the military
investigative committee announced.
Witnesses recorded video of a massive plume of smoke rising into the air
shortly after the explosions. Local residents said that the blasts were
powerful enough to rattle windows dozens of kilometers away from the
The press secretary for the regional government said that three
residential buildings in the town of Pervomaisky were damaged in the
incident, and that the force of the explosion blew out the windows of
many local houses.
Local emergency services confirmed that the blast wave from the
explosions also blew out the windows of schools, kindergartens and a
The explosions sparked a brushfire in 15-20 hectares of nearby dead
grass. Authorities said that the fire does not threaten populated areas.
|Explosions prompt evacuations|
Rescue workers immediately began evacuating the nearby towns
of Experimentally and Pervomaisky, dubbed ‘Donguz’ for the garrison of
the same name located there.
Initial reports suggested that 700 of the 10,000 people living in the
two towns were evacuated. However, according to the latest estimates, 19
people were forced to leave their homes and move to four evacuation
centers, where they were provided with hot food and water.
Witnesses from the town of Donguz told RT they are being removed from
the area, and claimed they saw a large number of military vehicles,
ambulances, emergency workers, communication officers and repair workers
heading to the site. Authorities are phoning local residents,
explaining the situation and asking them to remain calm. Buses were
dispatched to transport residents away from the area.
“I was at home when it happened, about five kilometers from the blast.
Everyone came out of their houses right away, emergency vehicles came
right after warning people that there will be [an] evacuation. Right now
the village is evacuated,” Donguz resident Valeri Utkin told RT. “Buses
arrived to take most of the people and others chose to take higher
ground through their own means. They didn't tell us how long the
evacuation will last. Right now I see a lot of smoke coming in.”
The state of emergency for the area announced after the accident remains in effect.
Twitter users reported that police have closed the roads leaving Orenburg. Local authorities confirmed these reports.
Russian Railways announced that they restored railway communication in
the area after a temporary disruption due to the incident.
Controversy surrounding the explosions
Initial reports suggested that a fire at the facility’s loading dock set off shells stored on a train for disposal.
That statement was later disputed by the Press Service of Russia’s
Defense Ministry, which claimed that no one was injured or went missing
in the incident. The ministry also denied that a train loaded with
shells was at the testing range, saying only three shells exploded. It
was later revealed that over 4,000 tons of shells detonated.
Local authorities later suspected a breach of safety regulations could have caused the explosions.
A local hospital first reported that four people were injured in the
blast, and said they expected the number of injuries to increase.
However, the deputy chief doctor later denied that the hospital had
accepted any patients in connection with the incident.
Local resident Oksana Komarnitski told RT that many emergency vehicles
were seen arriving at the scene of the blast and returning to a nearby
hospital, presumably carrying people injured in the
incident. Komarnitski had not heard any official confirmation of the
“We were 50 kilometers away from the explosion, it was really loud, our
ceiling shook and some of the tiles came down,” she said. “No more
explosions are heard right now but smoke is all over, we are not sure
what is going on.”
Anxious comments about the aftermath of the explosions circulated on the
Internet. Dunguz resident Valentina Aramova said the explosions were so
powerful that some trees fell, the local Orenburg ‘56-media’ website
“At the local market the trading stalls folded up like playing cards,”
she said. “Children are being evacuated from kindergartens and schools.
Everyone is being asked to go far into the steppe. The whole of Dunguz
is in plumes of black smoke.”
The local Health Ministry reported that no one was injured and
hospitalized in the explosions. The main nearby hospital also told RT
that they had not received any injured people.
At the same time, local emergency services report that one officer has
been hospitalized after he was found during the cleanup operation.
Military investigators opened a criminal case into the incident, a
spokesperson for the investigation department told RIA-Novosti news
Investigators deployed to the scene to determine the cause of the
incident, which was classified as a “violation of rules of handling
weapons and objects posing increased danger,” carrying a maximum penalty
of two years in prison. Officials said that a full investigation may
take more than a month.
Other military-related accidental explosions have occurred in the
region. On September 27, a missile disposal group commander was killed
during disposal work at the Totsk testing range. On September 13, two
military service members were injured in an accidental missile explosion
at the Donguz testing range. Two more soldiers were injured during
disposal efforts at Donguz on August 30.
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