PUGACHYOVO, Russia — A fire at a military base in the Russian republic of Udmurtia is causing a series of strong explosions, forcing authorities to evacuate thousands of people, RFE/RL’s Russian and Tatar-Bashkir services report.
According to RFE/RL’s services, some 150 buildings — including 18 ammunition depots — are currently on fire at the military base near the village of Pugachyovo. The fire started around midnight on June 2.
Officials say that up to 10,000 train cars full of ammunition may be inside the base.
All of Udmurtia’s firefighting brigades and much of its police force has been sent to the site. Udmurt President Aleksandr Volkov and the republic’s emergency situations and interior ministers are at the site.
Udmurt Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Krasnopyorov told RFE/RL that firefighters have managed to “localize the blaze, but the fire is still burning.”
Udmurtia’s Health Ministry said 50 people have been injured in the incident thus far, 25 of whom have been hospitalized.
Additionally, two elderly citizens died of heart attacks attributed to the fire and explosions and one military officer is missing.
An estimated 28,000 people have been evacuated from Pugachyovo and nearby villages, including those living in the neighboring Republic of Tatarstan.
Two-Kilometer Debris Radius
Udmurt Interior Ministry press service head Elvira Markovina told RFE/RL by phone from the site that police officers are currently patrolling the affected area to prevent looting. She said a man was arrested for trying to steal alcohol.
Explosions from within the ammunition depots can be heard regularly. Most of the buildings on fire are not yet fully destroyed but their roofs and windows are severely damaged.
Local authorities have blocked the highway that goes from Yelabuga to Perm. The radius of debris from the exploding ammunition is about two kilometers around the military base.
The incident at Pugachyovo is the second large-scale fire and resulting explosions at a Russian military base in the past week.
A fire at a military ammunition depot in the nearby Republic of Bashkortostan on May 26 caused similar explosions and lasted for nearly a week.
The 7,000 local residents evacuated started returning to their homes in the village of Urman in the Iglino district near the Bashkir capital, Ufa, on June 1.
More than 116 people were made homeless in that incident, 12 were injured, and some 500 left unemployed after their businesses were destroyed by the fire and explosions.
Soldier Sergei Denyayev has reportedly been charged with starting a fire that led to the explosions after he violated military regulations on the handling of explosive materiel.
Read more in Russian here
Read more in Tatar here