KIEV: Some 12,000 people were evacuated after a fire and a series of explosions at an arms depot containing thousands of tonnes of ammunition in the north of Ukraine early Tuesday, authorities said.
Emergency services said they had no information on any deaths or injuries in the incident near the town of Ichnya, more than 170 kilometres (100 miles) from Kiev.
The fire and explosions began around 3:30am at the defence ministry’s depot No. 6, which is spread over about 700 hectares (1,700 acres), the emergency services said in a statement. The size of the area affected was not known.
Emergency services said in a statement that “there are approximately 88,000 tonnes of ammunition in the stores.”
Video posted on the emergency services website showed smoke rising up to regular thudding sounds of explosions.
Almost 12,000 people were evacuated from the area at risk, including the inhabitants of 38 villages, regional authorities said, while gas and electricity were cut off to prevent accidents.
President Petro Poroshenko called a meeting of the heads of security forces and promised to give residents all the necessary help, his spokesman wrote on Facebook.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman travelled to the scene and chaired a meeting of emergency services officials.
Authorities closed the airspace in a 30-kilometre radius around the site, as well as rail and road traffic as more than a hundred firefighters worked at the scene.
Military prosecutors opened a probe into possible negligence by officials, Interfax Ukraine news agency reported.
Stockpiles of outdated ammunition dating back to the Soviet era often cause fires and explosions in Ukraine and Russia.
It was the sixth major fire in three years at an arms depot of the Ukrainian army, which has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country since 2014 in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.
In March 2017, a huge fire set off explosions at a depot in the town of Balakliya in the Kiev-controlled part of eastern Ukraine, killing one person and injuring five others.
Ukrainian authorities blamed that incident on an “act of sabotage”. —AFP