At least 14 killed, 17 injured battling ammunition depot fire

MOSCOW (AP) — Lightning struck an ammunition storage compound in Russia’s Ural Mountains, sparking a series of explosions that killed at least 14 people and injured 17 others, a news agency reported Thursday.
Thirteen soldiers and one policemen were confirmed killed, the Interfax news agency said, citing the Defense Ministry. Four people are missing and 17 other servicemen were injured battling the blaze.
The fire, which broke out Wednesday afternoon after lightning struck the storage depot, had almost destroyed the compound by the following morning, Interfax said. It has already blackened more than 490 acres of surrounding forest.
Munitions explosions from some of the 240 tons of ammunition and other military equipment stored at the compound — including mines, artillery shells and rockets — hampered firefighting efforts Thursday.
The Emergency Situations Ministry had not yet decided whether to send an Il-76 plane to help extinguish the fire. The plane can carry 40 tons of water and was on standby at the airport in the regional capital, Yekaterinburg, about 900 miles east of Moscow.
More than 1,000 residents of nearby villages were evacuated on Wednesday, but were already returning to their homes Thursday, even though some settlements were without power, water, or telephone connections due to the explosions, ITAR-Tass reported.