Fire kills 10 at Russian arms depot, briefly halts Transsiberian railway

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The Transsiberian railway crossing Chuna River...
The Transsiberian railway crossing Chuna River near Nizhneudinsk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MOSCOW Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:20am EDT

(Reuters) – Explosions caused by a fire killed at least 10 people at a munitions depot in eastern Siberia and temporarily closed a section of the Transsiberian railway, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

Engineers found a truck with 10 corpses in the early hours of Wednesday, a Defense Ministry spokesman told Rossiya-24 television, which carried pictures of flames swirling high in the night sky and turning it red.

The blaze broke out on Tuesday at the depot near Bolshaya Tura village, some 6,200 km (3,852 miles) southeast of Moscow, caused by a wildfire raging nearby. More than 1,000 residents were evacuated, the local Emergencies Ministry said.

As the wildfire spread, a logistics officer decided to evacuate those guarding the depot but the group were hit by another explosion as they tried to escape and died within minutes, spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

A further 17 people were injured in the blaze, the local Zabaikalsky Krai government said on its website.

The railroad operator said trains between Chita and Karymskaya were temporarily stopped for “security reasons,” but by Wednesday morning trains were running again, Interfax news agency reported.

The Transsiberian railway, linking Russia’s western regions with ports in Russia’s far east, is an export route for Russian commodities.

Up to a third of the freight carried on the Transsiberian railway is Russian coal being exported to the Asia-Pacific region. Oil and oil products make up 20 percent and construction and woodworking goods up to 10 percent, according to analyst data.

The railway is also used for supplies of some grain and metals. Fires at munitions depots are not uncommon in the former Soviet Union and are often blamed on negligence.

(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Polina Devitt and Alexander Winning, Writing by Alexei Anishchuk,; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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