Russian Ammo Depot Has Been Burning For Hours After Exploding In Giant Shockwave

Russia's Ministry of Defense sent two unmanned firefighting vehicles to help tackle the dangerous blaze that has injured at least eight people so far.

Russian internet

A Russian ammunition depot in the country's Siberian region caught fire earlier today, sending a powerful shockwave through local communities and touching off secondary explosions that have continued for hours, making it difficult to bring the blaze under control. It is unclear how many casualties the incident may have caused already, but it has forced the evacuation of approximately 11,000 people from nearby communities.

The fire at the base belonging to Russian Military Unit 74008, which manages a territorial arsenal in the village of Kamenka in the central Russian region of Krasnoyarsk began shortly before 1:00 PM local time on Aug. 5, 2019, according to state-run media outlet TASS. The fire quickly spread to a warehouse containing artillery ammunition, including shells and artillery rockets, as well as propelling charges, triggering a massive explosion. The base also reportedly houses various other munitions, including tank shells, anti-tank guided missiles, surface-to-air missiles. 

TASS reported earlier in the day that the fires had been burning for more than five hours, though it is unclear if emergency personnel have been able to put them out since then. The Ministry of Defense had reportedly dispatched a pair of Uran-14 unmanned firefighting vehicles to the scene to help, given the dangers posed to first responders attempting to get close to enough to actually battle the flames.

"The shells are exploding one by one," Semyon Semyonov, a local lawmaker in the region, told TASS. "Haze and smoke are drifting from there."

Authorities had ordered the evacuation of thousands of citizens from the nearby town of Achinsk and other communities surrounding the base. The explosions were violent enough to shatter windows on homes nearby. Russian aluminum producer Rusal said that it had shut down operations at its plant in Achinsk as a safety precaution, with only essential staff remaining on site.

The video below shows a Uran-14 in operation, as well as a Uran-6 mine-clearing unmanned ground vehicle.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied reports that there has been at least one fatality, but it may be hard for first responders to know for sure until they bring the fire under control. There were additional reports of at least eight wounded individuals, but how many are military personnel and how many are civilian bystanders is unclear. TASS said four members of the Russian military and four civilians were hurt, but RT reported that only two of the injured individuals were military personnel. 

It is also unclear where exactly those casualties occurred. Video has appeared on social media showing craters well away from the base that appear to have come from ordnance or other debris that explosion sent flying in all directions.

The exact cause of the fire is unclear, but there are a number of forest fires raging across Siberia at present amid an unprecedented heatwave. This means that major firefighting resources are already spread thin in the region.

Russia has suffered similar accidents in the past. The last such incident, in May 2018, led to fires that burned for a week before aerial firefighting aircraft and helicopters could put out the blaze. This is not a problem necessarily limited to Russia, either.

We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com