Over 2,000 died in 49 accidental blasts over past 20 years

As world mourns 137 deaths in Beirut, such incidents occur frequently, raising questions on safety of ammunition dumps

ANKARA : As the death toll from Tuesday’s blast in the Lebanese capital Beirut rose to 137 and the number of injured climbed to at least 5,000, the handling of ammunition and safety of depots worldwide have come under heightened scrutiny.

Over the past two decades, as many as 49 incidents of accidental explosions have claimed 2,049 lives and nearly 17,000 injuries. Records suggest that 50,000 properties were also damaged due to the accidental blasts.

Here are major incidents of accidental and unexplained explosions at the ammunition and chemical dumps across the world since 2000.

2000

April 14: A fire triggers a series of explosions in a hangar being used as an ammunition storage area at Kinshasa airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing 101 people and injuring more than 200 others.

April 28: A fire and explosions at the Bharatpur munitions depot in Rajasthan, India kills five personnel, injures seven others. The incident causes damage to 20 surrounding villages.

May 13: An explosion in the Netherlands’ eastern Enschede city kills 23 and injures 947 people.

2001

March 3: A fire causes a series of explosions at an ammunition depot at an army base in the Guinean capital Conakry, killing 10 people.

April 29: A fire at a munitions depot on the outskirts of the city of Pathankot in the Indian state of Punjab forces the evacuation of thousands of residents and destroys more than 500 tons of ammunition.

May 20: At least 14 people lost their lives, while 50 others wounded when munitions blew up in Al Bayda in Yemen.

May 24: A Fire and explosions destroy an Indian Army munition depot near the town of Suratgarh in the state of Rajasthan. The explosions kill one person and injure five others, forcing the evacuation of about 3,000 people from surrounding villages.

Aug. 16: An explosion at a munitions depot in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu kills 25 people and injures three others.

Sept. 21: An explosion at a fertilizer factory in Toulouse, France leads to 31 deaths and injuries to 2,500 people. The blast registers 3.4 on the Richter magnitude scale, damaging about 30,000 buildings over about two-thirds of the city.

Oct. 25: Multiple explosions kill 19 military personnel, and injure 90 others at a munition depot in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Pak Chong area in Thailand.

2002

Jan. 27: An explosion at the Ikeja ammunition depot in Lagos, Nigeria causes more than 1,100 deaths, and 5,000 injuries.

Jan. 29: An explosion at a munitions depot in the Pak Chong district of Thailand leaves 11 people dead.

2004

Feb. 19: An explosion at a munitions depot in Amritsar, India, kills 30 people.

April 22: A train carrying explosives blast in North Korea. Officials report killing of 54 people and 1,249 injuries.

May 6: Railroad cars loaded with ammunition explode at a munitions storage site near Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, killing five people and injuring 300 others. Some 300 buildings are also destroyed.

2005

March 23: A hydrocarbon leak causes a vapor cloud explosion in a Texas oil refinery, killing 15 people and injuring more than 170.

May 2: Illicit munitions stockpiled by a local militia commander explodes in Bajgah, north of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, killing 28 people and injuring 13 more. Some 25 houses are also destroyed in the village.

2007

July 26: An explosion at a munitions depot at a military complex, located approximately six miles north of Syria’s Aleppo, kills 15 soldiers and injures 50 others.

March 22: A series of explosions rock the Mozambican capital Maputo. Officials confirm 93 fatalities and more than 300 injuries.

2008

March 15: A former military ammunition depot in the village of Gerdec in the Vore Municipality, Albania went into flames when experts were preparing to destroy stockpiles of obsolete ammunition, killing 26 people and damaging 318 houses.

July 10: An explosion at a military depot in Kagan, southeast of Bukhara in Uzbekistan,
kills at least three people and injures 21 more.

2009

April 29: A large explosion at the Mbgagla munitions depot near Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania kills 26 people, injuring more than 300 and destroying as many as 7,000 homes.

Nov. 13: As many as 120 tons of Soviet-era artillery shells explode at the 31st Arsenal of the Caspian Sea Flotilla’s ammunition depot near Ulyanovsk, Russia killing 10 people.

2011

July 11: A fire at a munitions dump at Evangelos Florakis Naval Base near Zygi, Southern Cyprus causes an explosion of 98 cargo containers, destroying the naval base, killing 13 and injuring 60 people.

2013

April 17: A fire culminating in an explosion in West Fertilizer Company plant in West, Texas kills 15 people, injures over 160 others and destroys over 150 buildings.

2015

Aug. 12: Two explosions at a warehouse in the Chinese port of Tianjin kills 173 people.

2016

Dec. 20: An explosion in fireworks dump at Mexico’s San Pablito Market in the city of Tultepec kills 42 people.

2020

Jan. 5: A tank explodes at the IQOXE (Chemical Industries of Ethylene Oxide) plant in Tarragona, Spain.

Aug. 4: An explosion in a warehouse in Beirut, Lebanon, containing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, kills at least 135 people and injures more than 5,000.

Sources: 

Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS): Excess Stockpiles as Liabilities rather than Assets by Small Arms Survey

US Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

By : Iftikhar Gilani – ANADOLU AGENCY

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