A total of 42 people were injured, 19 of whom were hospitalized, when munitions exploded at an artillery arsenal in the Volga region Republic of Udmurtia, the regional emergencies ministry said on Friday.
Explosions were going off two or three times a minute at the arsenal late on Friday morning. The incident is the second major accident involving munitions exploding at a Russian army arsenal in little over a week.
"Nineteen people have been hospitalized, and the other 23 have been treated at the scene," a regional emergencies source said.
At around 11:50 p.m. Moscow time [19:50 GMT] on Thursday shells began to explode in an artillery depot near the village of Pugachevo in Udmurtia. The facility belongs to the Defense Ministry's missile and artillery directorate and is tasked mainly with munitions disposal.
Some of those who sought medical aid suffered from smoke inhalation, while others were cut by broken glass, a spokesman for the republic's head said. "There are also people who need psychological support," he said.
Three of the injured, two women and a child, suffered multiple burns and are said to be in moderately severe condition, a police source said.
Almost 10,000 people were evacuated overnight from the town of Agryz in the neighboring Republic of Tatarstan overnight, as the area was declared to be within the blast wave radius. The city residents were allowed to return to their homes in the morning.
Eyewitnesses said fragments of the detonating shells were spotted within a two-kilometer (one-mile) zone.
The blast-hit facility stores from 5,000 to 10,000 railway carriages with various ammunition. It is believed 18 storage facilities are on fire.
A police source said rockets for the Grad multiple rocket launching systems started to explode in underground storage facilities on Friday morning, but the Russian Defense Ministry dismissed the information. A military source earlier said "no self-propelled artillery shells" were stored at the facility.
A total of 200 personnel, 30 firefighting units and three firefighting trains were deployed to deal with the blaze and explosions that followed. The fourth train is to arrive from the neighboring republic of Tatarstan soon.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry said it would send two Il-76 firefighting aircraft, each able to carry 42 metric tons of water. They took off from Moscow's Ramenskoe Airfield early on Friday morning.
The accident forced the Emergencies Ministry to temporarily close the Yelabuga-Izhevsk zone of the M7 federal highway, connecting Moscow and Ufa, the capital of the Urals republic of Bashkortostan. The nearby railway link was also closed.
Udmurtia borders the republic of Bashkortostan, where fifty houses burned to the ground, and 160 people were left homeless as a result of powerful explosions at another ammunition depot last week.
MOSCOW, June 3 (RIA Novosti)