As of 7 am on 25th March, sporadic explosions have been heard at the ammunitions depot in Balakliya, in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. This has been confirmed by the State Emergency Services of Ukraine, who also commented, ‘2 fire tanks have been deployed in order to localize and extinguish the heart of the fire, and 3 fire engines from the State Emergency Services have also been deployed to supply water and for refueling’.
Update 24th of March 2017, 9:51pm, Kyiv time: There are 23 buildings damaged as a result of explosions in Balakliya. 10% of city is without lightening, process of reconnecting to gas will take from 4 till 5 days. This information was made public by the Head of Kharkiv region Administration Julia Svitlychna.
6:52pm, Kyiv time: The fires at the Balakliya arms depot has been successfully extinguished. The Deputy Minister of Defence, Ihor Pavlovskiy commented on this in a briefing in Balaklia, he said: ‘We have managed to completely extinguish the. Now we have to eliminate all the effects from the fire. That is the main issue we have to resolve. The second issue is removing all explosive material from the area.’
According to Oleh Mylchutskiy, the First Deputy Head of the State Emergency Services in the Kharkiv oblast: ‘On Sunday we plan to have removed all explosive material from residential areas. To do this, we have employed an additional 6 pyrotechnic units, who will start working this evening. There will be 15 pyrotechnic units working in this territory in general.’
‘There are still 1,400 people in temporary accommodation and we are now determining whether or not it is safe for them to return,’ said the Head of Kharkiv Regional State Administration Yuliya Svitlichna.
2:52pm, Kyiv time: One more woman is injured after being trapped in the wrackage of her home. She is now in the hospital.
10:45am, Kyiv time: A woman has died as a result of the arms warehouse explosion in Bakaliya, in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. Her body was discovered during an inspection of a residential area destroyed by the explosion. Military engineers began clearing the area around the warehouse at 8 am on 24th March.
An explosion in the ammunition depot in Balakliya, in the Kharkivskiy region of Ukraine occurred today. The evacuation of the town and surrounding areas has been announced.
The spokesman to the Prime Minister said that, according to Groysman, it has affected over 50% of the arsenal. The PM added that the town has been affected in several instances but they are not serious.
Photo by Vladyslav Musienko/kmu.gov.ua
As at 11.32 am it was said that the radius of the evacuation zone around the military warehouse where the explosions happened was 10km. In a briefing in Bakaliya, Groysman also said that the explosions could last for up to 7 days.
Kharkiv police confirmed that a 54 year old woman was injured as a result of the explosion. She received a shrapnel wound to the skull.
What is known about the cause of the explosions?
According to the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman, neglect and sabotage are thought to be the reasons behind the explosions.
It was said at a briefing on Thursday with the Chief Military Prosecutor, Anatolii Matios, that before the first explosion at the munitions storage near Bakaliya, the buzzing sound of an unmanned aircraft was heard above it. He also said that it is not possible to fight the fires due to continued detonations. Matios further stated that criminal proceedings have been opened on account of ‘negligence’.
What has been done?
Petro Poroshenko instructed the heads of the regional administrations and the Kyiv City State Administration to help the victims of the fire.
Photo by witnesses: vk.com/podslyshanobalakleya
There were 6 evacuation points in operation, according to the acting Head of the State Emergency Services, Oleh Melchutskyi. Gas and electricity have been shut off in the affected area and all road, air and rail travel has been prohibited. The police restricted movement on 5 roads after the explosion.
According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, nearly 20, 000 people have been evacuated. Those people will be settled in schools and social welfare buildings.
Photo by witnesses: vk.com/podslyshanobalakleya
“The residents of Balakliya and the surrounding areas who have suffered as a result of the explosions in the ammunition depot will be moved to schools and social welfare buildings in the region. The task to prepare the buildings for people was set during the сrisis center session. The question of financial support is also being worked out. We will be ready to talk about restoration works after the explosions have ceased."
The head of the Ministry of Defence, Stepan Poltorak, informed that airspace above the area of the explosions is closed. He added that it has not had a great impact on the defence capacity of the country.
translated by Sofia Fedeczko, Liuda Kornievych