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Ammunition depot conflagration in Ukrain
An ammunition depot conflagration started, last Thursday, in ammunition depot No. 275 close to the village Novobogdanovka, Melitopol District, Zaporozhye Region in Ukraine's southeast. Yevgeny Marchuk, Defense Minister, addressed the nation last night in a live cast of the UT-1 government television channel to report the developments. Disaster no longer threatens nearby villages, he reassured. Blast frequency has subsided to several within an hour, and burning ammunition is falling within a 300 meter radius, at the longest. An extinguisher tank is involved in fire fighting. Special-purpose armored vehicles are fortifying the vicinity. An area up to three kilometers off the burning depot remains under the closest control, while refugees are coming back to villages five kilometers and farther off the site. The disaster brought out inadmissible conditions of Ukrainian arsenals. Thus, the Novobogdanovka depot was storing ammunition manufactured twenty to fifty years ago and hastily removed from dismantled Soviet army bases in other European countries. 60 per cent of the entire Novobogdanovka stock was piled in the open-heaps of grass-grown artillery shells. Ukrainian ammunition depots are making do without safety and alarm gadgetry, and many have no protective earth ramparts, which army regulations prescribe to make four to six meters high. It takes money and administrative measures to prevent the disaster re-enacted. Arsenal safety alone demands no less than 900 million hrivnas, roughly, $170 million. The minister had repeatedly highlighted the matter-all in vain. "One thing is clear now: we have no such money, and no one will give it within the year," he complained. He strongly called to put an end to a crying lack of army discipline. "National security rests on responsibility," stressed Mr. Marchuk. More than 10,000 privates and several dozen commissioned officers have been dismissed from the Ukrainian army within a few preceding years. The army direly needs a structural reform. Meanwhile, it is tackling smaller problems at a random choice-certainly, to no effect. Ukraine currently possesses approximately 2.5 million tons of ammunition. 1.5 million tons of this are desperately worn and outdated, and need urgent destruction, say Defense Ministry statistics. A conflagration started in the Novobogdanovka depot, with its 90,000 tons of artillery shells, at noon-about 12.50 p.m., local time, May 6. A blast came every two to three seconds within the initial disaster hours. Shells and splinters came off over a distance of ten to forty kilometers all around. Seven thousand people were urgently evacuated from eleven nearby villages. A man died of a splinter wound, and four of heart attacks. Another four were injured.
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