Arms Depot Blasts In Ukraine Injure 4

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine -- A large fire broke out at an arms depot in southern Ukraine for the second time in three years, triggering explosions, injuring four people and prompting the evacuation of nearby residents, officials quoted by Reuters said.

The Emergency Ministry said the blaze started in the mid-afternoon in an area storing shells due to be taken out of commission.

Explosions in rapid succession continued hours later into the night, hurling shells up to 300 meters through the air.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said four people, including two servicemen, were injured.

Medical brigades were being dispatched to the site in Zaporizhya region.

“Explosions are occurring now at the rate of two to three per minute,” Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Klyuev told Interfax Ukraine news agency. “The fire is covering an area of about three hectares.”

Military officials said the base held 20,000 tons of ammunition.

News reports said 1,500 residents had been evacuated from around the village of Novobogdanovka and a further 4,000 had been taken temporarily to special shelters.

Train traffic between the capital Kiev and the Crimea peninsula, a major tourist destination, was severely disrupted.

Explosions at the same base lasting nearly a week killed five people in May 2004, causing more than $700 million in damage and deeply embarrassing authorities.

A smaller fire occurred last year.

Similar incidents have struck arms depots in Russia and other ex-Soviet states.

Source: MOS News