Thousands have been evacuated from a Siberian town after an ammunition depot on a military base caught fire, triggering huge explosions that have sent deadly shrapnel flying for miles around.
One soldier was killed and at least seven other people have been injured, including several with shrapnel wounds, according to Russian state media reports.
Video posted to social media showed thick smoke rising over the military base and visible shockwaves rising from the thunderous blasts.
Some of the explosions sent flames and white sparks flying high into the air.
An estimated 40,000 tank and artillery shells are kept on the base in Achinsk, a Siberian city that lies near the Trans-Siberian railroad, 2,000 miles east of Moscow.
The Russian defence ministry said the storage site that exploded held gunpowder charges for artillery shells.
Russian state media estimated that 11,000 people have been evacuated to a distance of 12.5 miles from the base.
The mayor of Achinsk, Ilay Akhmetov, has told the 100,000 residents of the city to prepare for evacuation.
Video from the town showed local residents scrambling as explosions and an air siren could be heard.
“Explosion after explosion,” one woman filming the blasts said. “One is happening every 10 seconds.”
The blasts also prompted aluminium producer Rusal to suspend operations at the country’s biggest alumina producing plant.
Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer outside China, suspended operations at its Achinsk alumina plant and evacuated all but essential staff to ensure their safety, it said.
The plant is Russia’s largest producer of alumina, a raw material which is smelted into aluminium.
Loading activities are operating on schedule at Russian oil giant Rosneft’s Achinsk oil refinery, Tass news agency quoted a refinery spokesperson as saying.
The refinery is located 30km from the military base.
It is not clear what caused the blasts, although lax safety precautions have caused similar accidents in the past.
Siberia has also been hit by wildfires this summer, made worse by warming temperatures and a lack of rainfall.
Explosions at ammunition dumps can send unexploded shells flying for miles around, requiring a significant clean-up effort to de-mine residential areas before locals can return to their homes.
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