Russian arms depot blasts force evacuation of 12,000

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Authorities in central Russia were early Friday battling a fire raging through an arms depot storing around 10,000 tonnes of shells that forced the evacuation of more than 12,000 people.

As a result of the night-time blaze at the arms depot near the city of Izhevsk in the Volga region of Udmurtia three people received burns and were hospitalised, emergencies ministry spokesman Mikhail Surkov told AFP.

Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said separately the military did not sustain any casualties.

"Everyone has been accounted for," he told AFP. He said it was currently impossible to establish what caused the blaze.

"Everything is on fire and exploding," he said.

The entire depot located near the village of Pugachyovo near Izhevsk was consumed by the fire, said Surkov, adding authorities have already evacuated more than 12,000 people from the area.

Explosions at military weapons depots are relatively common in Russia and are often linked to ageing equipment and lax enforcement of safety rules.

Late last month a similar fire at a munitions depot in the region of Bashkortostan triggered explosions and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, officials have said.

© 2011 AFP

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