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Thousands evacuated after Russia ammunition explosions

09 October 2012

According to Russia Today, thousands fled on October 9 when two villages were evacuated following a series of huge explosions near a military testing ground some 40 kilometers from the city of Orenburg in Central Russia. Witnesses recorded videos of a massive plume of smoke rising into the air shortly after the explosions.

Local residents said that the blasts were powerful enough to cause windows to shake dozens of kilometres away from the epicentre.

Initial reports suggested that a fire at the facility’s loading dock set off shells and missiles stored for disposal on a train.

That statement was later disputed by the Press Service of Russia’s Defense Ministry, which claimed 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.

A local hospital first reported that four people were injured in the blast, and said they expected the number of injuries to increase, although this was later denied.

Local residents 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. 

The press secretary for the regional government said that three residential buildings in the settlement of Pervomaisky were damaged in the incident, and that the force of the explosion blew out the windows of many local houses. He also denied reports of injuries.

Rescue workers are evacuating the nearby settlements of Experimentalny and Pervomaisky, dubbed the Donguz settlement for the garrison of the same name located there.

Military investigators opened a criminal case into the incident, a spokesperson for the investigation department told RIA-Novosti news agency.

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.

The Russian railroad company has suspended traffic on the Orenburg-Ilyetsk stretch following the missile incident.

Update 11/10/12: Interfax says military detectives have brought criminal charges against Private Alexander Kasatkin, who helped unload munitions at the Donguz ranges, injuring one officer and causing extensive damage to nearby buildings. Over four tonnes of munitions, including shells, aerial bombs and Uragan missiles exploded in three separate blasts as the train was being unloaded at the army base near Orenburg.

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