Thousands evacuated in Ukraine as ammunition depot explodes
KIEV: Massive explosions and a blaze at a military ammunition depot in central Ukraine forced authorities to evacuate 24,000 people and close airspace over the region, officials said on Wednesday.
The blasts occurred late on Tuesday at a military base near Kalynivka in the Vynnytsya region, 270 kilometres (168 miles) west of Kiev, Ukrainian emergencies service said in a statement.
One person was injured, it said.
Arriving in the region hours later, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said: “external factors” were behind the incident.
The military said rescue teams were evacuating nearby villages in the region, bussing more than 30,000 people out of the area.
Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Andriy Ageyev said munitions at the military base were still detonating late on Wednesday morning.
But Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who arrived in the area earlier, said the situation was under control and “external factors” were behind the incident.
Olena Gitlyanska, the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Service, said they were treating the fire as sabotage. She did not provide further details.
Authorities said they turned off the electricity and gas supply to the town.
Social media users reported hearing loud explosions as far away as the capital Kiev.
Local media said the explosion was the fourth ammunition depot explosion in the past two years.
In a similar incident in March, a fire at a military depot in Ukraine’s east raged for hours and prompted an evacuation of more than 20,000 people.
President Petro Poroshenko has called for an urgent meeting of the country’s top brass to discuss the situation.