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Russia contains spread of arms depot fire

Hundreds of Russian servicemen on Thursday contained a blaze at an arms depot that left 16 injured and damaged houses in the area, the defence ministry said.

A wildfire broke out on Wednesday afternoon on the territory of a depot in the Ryazan region southeast of Moscow, reportedly containing some 75,000 tonnes of munitions.

The flames spread to warehouses, setting off a large explosion.

The defence ministry said on Thursday evening the fire had been “contained both on the territory of the depot as well as outside it along the whole perimeter”.

Earlier, Russia’s Emergencies Minister Yevgeny Zinichev said in a video conference meeting with President Vladimir Putin that “16 people have been hospitalised and more than 20 buildings damaged” as a result.

Zinichev added that roughly 1,500 people were involved in fighting the blaze.

More than 650 servicemen, four Il-76 planes and three Mi-8 helicopters took part in the operation to put out the fire, the defence ministry said.

The aircraft had dumped almost 1,000 tons of water on to the fire, Interfax news agency reported, citing the defence ministry.

Teams of specialists have begun checking for explosive objects in the streets and houses of a village 1.5 kilometres (one mile) from the depot, the defence ministry said in a statement quoted by RIA Novosti.

It did not give further details. Such objects could have been ejected by the force of the explosion.

The emergencies ministry said it had evacuated more than 2,300 residents living within a five-kilometre radius of the fire.

Temporary shelters have been set up in local schools and hospitals to accommodate the displaced people, Zinichev added.

Officials opened a criminal probe into potential breaches of rules on handling weapons.