Residents were evacuated on Tuesday after munitions at a military ammunition disposal site exploded near the Donguz rail station in Russia’s Orenburg region, the Emergencies and Civil Defense Ministry said.
A total of more than 4,000 tons of ammunition exploded, the Investigative Committee’s Chief Military Directorate said.
“That included 1,379 tons of 100-mm shells, 400 tons of aviation bombs, and 2,000 280-mm rockets from Uragan multiple rocket launchers,” committee said in a press release.
“Donguz has been partially evacuated, and road traffic on the Sol-Lipetsk highway has been stopped,” a ministry source said.
The alarm was sounded at 10:57 a.m. Moscow time, after a fire broke out at the depot 25 miles (40 km) from Orenburg, followed by three explosions. There were no reports of casualties so far, the ministry said.
The explosion took place after a fire, the Izvestia daily reported. Smoke billowed from the depot for about 10 minutes so the nearly 300 officers and soldiers had enough time to run to a safe distance and no one was hurt.
“Commander issued an order to leave the premises. We dropped everything and fled,” an eyewitness told the paper.
“Otherwise all the 300 people would have been killed.”
The cause of the fire has yet to be established.
The military base has been cordoned off with over 200 rescuers and army sappers working at the scene. They will look for unexploded munitions for their subsequent disposal.
The incident is the latest in a series of blasts involving munitions disposal sites and firing ranges in Russia in the last few years.
Three servicemen were injured in a blast on a military range in Russia’s Far East Khabarovsk Territory on May 30.
On May 18, another person was injured in an ammunition depot fire in the nearby Primorsk Territory.
Last June, huge explosions shook an ammunition depot in Russia's Urals republic of Udmurtia, leaving 95 people injured.