Two dead, 43 found alive in Russia military depot fire

13:07, November 14, 2009      

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At least two firefighters have been killed and 43 servicemen who had been considered missing were found alive after a series of explosions ripped through a military ammunition depot in Russia's Ulyanovsk on Friday, local media reported.


Fire and smoke is seen from a building in Russia's city of Ulyanovsk, November 13, 2009. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)


"It has been determined at the present time that two people died. These are servicemen from the military unit's fire detachment. They tried to stop the fire from spreading," Col. Alexei Kuznetsov, acting head of the Defense Ministry press service, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Another seven firefighters were injured and three of them were hospitalized, he added.

A total of 43 servicemen have been rescued from the site, the regional administration of Ulyanovsk reported.

Regional Governor Sergei Morozov has confirmed on Channel One TV that these people were earlier considered as missing.

"According to the crisis center, 43 servicemen from the arsenal who were on its territory have been rescued. The people were evacuated from a bomb shelter after the fire was partly got under control," said the regional administration.

Powerful and frequent explosions started at around 3:50 p.m. Moscow time (1250 GMT) at the federal arsenal, located in the Zavolzhsky district of Ulyanovsk.

Morozov said earlier that more than 3,000 people have been evacuated from the area on the banks of the Volga River.

Morozov also said on TV that "we managed to cut most of the facilities off from the fire," where "several thousand railcars" but "no ammunition containing chemical agents" were stored.

"The fire has been mainly got under control," he added, after receiving reports from the regional department of the Emergency Situations Ministry.


Explosions rip through an arms depot in Russia's city of Ulyanovsk in this video framegrab from footage by operator Alexander Fouralyov for the local REN TV channel on November 13, 2009.[chinadaily.com.cn/agencies]


As of 8:00 p.m. Moscow time (1700 GMT), some 20 people have sought medical assistance following the blaze, 10 of whom have been hospitalized, said the governor.

Meanwhile, Yelena Sikharulidze, a spokeswoman for the regional department of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said there were seven injured and hospitalized in the blast and blaze, none of whom had critical injuries.

Russian President Medvedev has instructed the Defense Ministry and the Emergency Situations Ministry to try every means to "deal with the emergency situation" in the fire, said the presidential press office.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also has ordered immediate evacuation of people from surrounding areas to safe places, said his press secretary.

According to Kuznetsov, the blaze was caused by "an explosion in one of the workshops," which further spread to neighboring buildings.

"Local firefighters and emergency situations' authorities are taking steps to contain the fire," he added.

The cause of the "powerful fire" could not be immediately confirmed.

Morozov said the explosion happened during the disposal of ammunition, when "there was a breach of a technological process."

"Conventional ammunition" is detonating at present, added the governor.

Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, is located by the Volga River about 893 km east of Moscow. It is also the capital city of the Ulyanovsk region.

Source: Xinhua
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