MOSCOW (Reuters) - Explosions caused by a fire at a munitions depot in Eastern Siberia killed at least seven people and closed a section of the Transsiberian railway on Tuesday, local authorities said.
A blaze broke out 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.
“According to preliminary and as yet unconfirmed data, seven people died and four are missing from among the people guarding the depot,” the local Zabaikalsky Krai government said on its website. A further 17 people were injured, it said.
The railroad operator said trains between Chita and Karymskaya had been temporarily stopped for “security reasons”. Six trains were halted on the route, the local government said.
The fire appeared to have been contained after no new blasts were heard for a while, a Defence Ministry spokesman told Rossyia-24 TV.
The railway, linking Russia’s western regions with Far Eastern ports, 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 and Polina Devitt; Writing by Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Nigel Stephenson and Robin Pomeroy