KALYNIVKA, Ukraine – A huge fire at an ammunition depot in central Ukraine has set off a series of explosions and prompted an evacuation of thousands of people, officials said Wednesday. The prime minister hinted it was possible sabotage by Ukraine’s enemies.
Authorities evacuated 30,000 people from the town of Kalynivka, 190 kilometres southwest of the capital, Kyiv, and turned off the electricity and gas supply after the depot at a military base there caught fire late on Tuesday.
The powerful explosions late Tuesday created massive fireballs that lit up the night sky. Hours later, smoke was seen billowing Wednesday morning. Four residential buildings were damaged by fire but no casualties have been reported.
Local media reported that about 188,000 tons of munitions were kept at the depot including rockets for the Grad multiple grenade launchers.
Andriy Ageyev, spokesman of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry, told the 112 television station that munitions at the military base in Kalynivka were still detonating at the military base late Wednesday morning. But Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who arrived to the area early Wednesday, said on local television the situation is under control.
Olena Gitlyanska, spokesman for the Ukrainian Security Service, told the Unian news agency that they are treating the fire as sabotage. She didn’t provide further details.
Speaking at an urgent session of the Cabinet, Groysman on Wednesday also suggested it was possible sabotage, saying that Ukraine is at war and that its expects that its enemies “will do all they can to make us weak.”
Government forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since April 2014 in a conflict that has left more than 10,000 killed and displaced more than a million.
President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday morning called for an urgent meeting of the country’s top brass to discuss the situation.
In a similar incident in March, a fire at a military depot in Ukraine’s east raged for hours and prompted an evacuation of over 20,000 people.