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MOSCOW, June 11 (Itar-Tass) —— A Defence Ministry commission led by Deputy Defence Minister, General of the Army Dmitry Bulgakov has arrived at the scene of Monday’s fire at one of the arms depot in the Orenburg region.;
Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov instructed the commission to investigate the causes of the incident and organise post-crisis rehabilitation work on the ground.
The military investigation section of Russia’s Investigation Committee has opened a criminal case on charges of violation of the rules of handling highly hazardous weapons and ammunition, resulting in the loss of military equipment or other grave consequences.
“It has been determined preliminarily that ignition occurred for unknown reasons on the technical premises of Military Unit No. 96558. Ammunition started exploding from the fire. The area of the incident has been cordoned off. Casualties are being ascertained,” the Main Military Investigation Department of the Investigation Committee said.
Military investigators are already at the scene of the incident and will start examining it as soon as the explosions stop and military engineers clear the area of unexploded ammunition.
“There are no casualties among the military or artillery depot personnel. According to updated information, one serviceman was hospitalised with carbon monoxide poisoning,” the Defence Ministry said. It was reported earlier that he had received light brain contusion.
The authorities are evacuating the local population from the four settlements in the Orenburg region and three settlements in the neighbouring Samara region.
The chief spokesman for the Volga Regional Centre of the Emergencies Ministry, Oleg Zugeyev, confirmed that artillery ammunition continues to explode at the arms depot.
Zugeyev said explosions occur every five minutes or more. “This is the reason why local people do not want to leave their homes,” he added.
Two armoured maintenance and education vehicles and 25 specially trained contract servicemen are ready to start fighting the fire. Measures are being taken to prevent the fire from spreading to the nearby forest.
Orenburg Region Governor Yuri Berg has flown to the scene of the incident urgently.
Two planes of the Emergencies Ministry have arrived at the scene of the incident to help fight the fire. They can dump 42 and 12 tonnes of water at a time respectively. A third plane with five psychologists, 28 specialists from the Lider centre and four rescuers aboard has just flown out of Ramenskoye outside Moscow.
The fire started at an artillery ammunition depot 14 kilometres from the town of Koltubanovsky.
The depots belong to one of the military units and occupy an area of 83 hectares.