20 000 Balakliya residents flee after blast at large arm depot in eastern Ukraine (VIDEO)

20 000 Balakliya residents flee after blast at large arm depot in eastern Ukraine (VIDEO)A blast at ammunition storage facility near the city of Balakliya in Kharkiv region of Ukraine occurred this night, on March 23, Ukrainian Defence Ministry said.

Fire and blasts of rockets are going on and can be seen and heard from dozens kilometres’ distance. The third part of the depot’s territory is on fire.

Stepan Poltorak, the Ukraine’s Defense Minister, reported that at a TV-broadcasted briefing.

“Blasts occurred today and, sadly, they are still underway now. Currently, unfortunately, the fire is not localised, it is going on, covering one-third of the whole territory of the depot,” Poltorak reported.

Witnesses have been posting videos and photos of the fire and smoke clouds.

Almost 20 000 people are evacuated from Balakliya so far, the State Emergency Service reported. Residents of the nearby villages which fall into possible detonation zone are also being evacuated.

“As of 7:30 of March 23 2 700 people are evacuated from the village of Verbovka to the village of Pryshyb (16 km away from the city of Balakliya). Another 806 people evacuated from the village of Yakovenkovo to Volkhov Yar (20 km away of Bakaliya). 16 317 residents of Balkliya itself were evacuated as well,” reads the message.

250 teams and 50 units of equipment are involved in the rescue operation. National reserve forces and equipment are on the state of alert, pyrotechnical estimates are in progress, the report says.

The immediate danger zone of the ammunition emission from the point of detonation is seven kilometres, Ukraine’s military prosecutor Anatoly Matios reported on Facebook.

The video below shows missile launching by itself from fire and ascending above the town:

So far, authorities have not named possible causes of the explosion and whether it was an accident or an act of terrorism.
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