June 5, 2012 / 4:26 PM / 6 years ago

Seven hurt in explosions at Bulgaria arms depot

SOFIA (Reuters) - A series of explosions rocked an arms depot in eastern Bulgaria on Tuesday, injuring seven people and triggered the evacuation of about 600 people from a nearby village, officials said.

The blasts began in the early afternoon, starting a fire at the depot near the village of Lozenets, some 330 km (200 miles) east of the capital Sofia. It was not immediately clear what triggered the explosions.

Seven workers at the disposal depot, owned by a private Bulgarian company Bereta Trading, were rushed to hospital. Two were in a serious condition, a health ministry spokesman said.

Smaller explosions were continuing and about 600 people from the village of Gorno Alexandrovo, also close to the depot, were evacuated, while other fled their homes in panic.

“We can still hear the blasts. People are very scared. The whole village is now evacuated. Two shells fell in the village, many windows are broken. There are cracks in many houses,” said Snezhana Kaneva, a regional crisis manager.

Police halted traffic on the nearby highway linking Sofia with the Black Sea city of Burgas.

The depot did not store any dangerous chemical or biological military substances, but was only used to dismantle obsolete munitions of the Bulgarian army, Denislav Delev, manager of Bereta Trading told the national radio.

Tests on pollution emissions were being carried out, but civil defence officials said initial results showed human health was not endangered.

Bereta Trading, whose depot spreads across an area of 6,000 square metres, has a permit to store 1,200 tonnes of explosives, according to its website.

In July 2008 a succession of explosions hit an arms dump storing 1,500 tonnes of obsolete munitions outside Sofia.

NATO member Bulgaria plans to destroy about 11,000 tonnes of obsolete munitions this year, the defence ministry said.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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