Russian Ammunition Storage Site Mushroom Cloud

 

A town in Russia is reportedly being evacuated, following a massive series of explosions at a nearby ammunition storage site. The Twitter account @Liveuamap is covering it best. There was a big enough conventional explosion to generate a large mushroom cloud and blast wave in the Achinsk district of Krasnoyarsk Krai. Other video shows a series of explosions and widespread flames.

The Liveuamap, or Live Universal Awareness Map, provides geotagged information, pinning events to the map. Here is a screenshot, with the center red dot and cross marking the spot, of the map showing the Achinsk district of Krasnoyarsk Krai:

Russian Explosions Map

Taken together, it appears to be far more than a single bunker explosion. Rather, it appears that multiple bunkers, or lots of explosive and flammable munitions negligently stored in the open, were ignited. Since this is in Russia, we will likely never know the truth of what, precisely, happened. 

I am not an expert in ammunition storage systems, but have a basic level of understanding. Each bunker in a storage site is rated for a certain explosive potential. You are not supposed to exceed that number. Likewise, the whole system, the cluster of bunkers, is rated for a certain safe level.

It may be that the Russian military was operating within, or near, those limits. Evidence supporting that would be the survival of a group of civilians, taking video only one kilometer from the site of the explosions. 

We also know that the town of about 100,000 nearby is being evacuated, although evacuation reports suggest close to a tenth of that number. This may be due to the threat of a massive forest fire, an issue already acknowledged by Russian authorities. It may also be due to bad stuff in the air, beyond ordinary fumes and smoke. It might even be out of a fear of some greater explosion. Again, we are unlikely to learn the truth of the matter. 

Checking the satellite images, the area circled in yellow looks the most like a proper ammunition storage area.

You can also see that this is an industrial town. It has both military munitions production and the JSC Achinsky Oil Refinery.

This is not the first such explosion in Russia this year. Here is video from RT, publishing someone’s cell phone video from the moments after the blast at an explosives plant in Russia’s Dzerzhinsk city.

The BBC reported on 1 June, 2019, “[a] factory explosion in the Russian city of Dzerzhinsk has injured 79 people and damaged 180 homes nearby.” Russian authorities said the explosion was initiated by a technical failure in a laboratory. That is certainly plausible. 

So, now we have an explosion in a military explosive ordinance factory, and a series of explosions in a large military ammunition storage site. We’ve had happenstance and coincidence. If there are more such explosions, in other Russian locations, we should turn to Ian Fleming’s aphorism:

“Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action’.”

― Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

 

Published in Foreign Policy
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There are 22 comments.

  1. Matt Bartle Member

    But which enemy??

    • #1
    • August 5, 2019, at 5:02 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    But which enemy??

    So many choices.

    • #2
    • August 5, 2019, at 5:20 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Seawriter Member

    I read the site had 40,000 or so 127 mm and 152 mm shells. The weight of explosive in a 152mm Russian round is between 19 and 23 pounds (warhead and propellant). So we are looking at about a 1/2 kiloton explosion. A whole lot smaller than even the Hiroshima bomb. The Halifax (2.9 kilotons) and Texas City explosions (2 kilotons) were much bigger.

    • #3
    • August 5, 2019, at 6:00 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    I read the site had 40,000 or so 127 mm and 152 mm shells. The weight of explosive in a 152mm Russian round is between 19 and 23 pounds (warhead and propellant). So we are looking at about a 1/2 kiloton explosion. A whole lot smaller than even the Hiroshima bomb. The Halifax (2.9 kilotons) and Texas City explosions (2 kilotons) were much bigger.

    The video, taken from one kilometer distance by a group of girls, certainly supports that assessment.

    • #4
    • August 6, 2019, at 12:16 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Kozak Member

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer country.

    Thats 40000 shells they can’t use to kill Ukrainians.

    • #5
    • August 6, 2019, at 6:54 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. RyanFalcone Member

    Boy, Russia and N. Korea have the worst luck with these explosions. Also, hasn’t it been a few weeks since a Russian submarine sank? 

    • #6
    • August 6, 2019, at 8:08 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. colleenb Member

    Thanks for the update @cliffordbrown. I heard something briefly but this provides a lot of information. I’ve never been in the military but these explosions look and sound really scary even it they may not be up the level of Halifax or Texas City. Would these type of explosives shoot out like fireworks or is that a movie thing? Thanks again.

    • #7
    • August 6, 2019, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. SkipSul Moderator

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Thanks for the update @cliffordbrown. I heard something briefly but this provides a lot of information. I’ve never been in the military but these explosions look and sound really scary even it they may not be up the level of Halifax or Texas City. Would these type of explosives shoot out like fireworks or is that a movie thing? Thanks again.

    No. That’s a movie thing (movie explosions are designed to produce lots of flame and light, and the fireworks come from using magnesium and other stuff that sparkles and flashes). But what they look like from a distance depends an awful lot on several other factors:

    • What exactly burned? Entire shells? Raw propellant? Primers?
    • Are we talking a detonation, or a just a really fast propellant burn under pressure?
    • What was in the shells themselves? Incendiaries? High explosives? 
    • Where was the blast, and how would the surrounding structures redirect the blasts?
    • Had the stuff aged, or been contaminated, or otherwise degraded? There are some propellants that are not particularly clean in the best of times, but as they age get weird and unstable, and can degrade into other nastier things.
    • #8
    • August 6, 2019, at 9:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. colleenb Member

    Hi @skipsul: Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    • #9
    • August 6, 2019, at 9:41 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Seawriter Member

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Hi @skipsul: Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    But other than those minor factors, everything was fine.

    • #10
    • August 6, 2019, at 9:45 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Hi @skipsul: Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    But other than those minor factors, everything was fine.

    Exactly so. In 1991 we were using “combat load,” rather than “training” ammunition in our Vulcans, firing aerial gunnery over the water from the shore. We did so because the ammunition, although properly stored, was quite old. We experienced occasional jams as the propellant gun powder had absorbed some moisture, clumping inside some shell casings and causing the powder to burn though the side of the metal casing.

    If you don’t rotate your stock deliberately, it eventually becomes untrustworthy.

    • #11
    • August 6, 2019, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. SkipSul Moderator

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Hi Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    But other than those minor factors, everything was fine.

    Exactly so. In 1991 we were using “combat load,” rather than “training” ammunition in our Vulcans, firing aerial gunnery over the water from the shore. We did so because the ammunition, although properly stored, was quite old. We experienced occasional jams as the propellant gun powder had absorbed some moisture, clumping inside some shell casings and causing the powder to burn though the side of the metal casing.

    If you don’t rotate your stock deliberately, it eventually becomes untrustworthy.

    My dad was in the Ohio Guard in the late 60s and early 70s. We he first joined up he was issued an M1 (which he loved). Then when the regular Army retired the M14, his unit got some of those too (he was less than fond of those). Then when they were issued the M16, the Army sent his unit, and a lot of other guard units, up to Camp Perry on Lake Erie, with crates of M1s, M14s, and an unbelievable amount of ammo.

    Their job?

    Fire it all. When the rifles got too hot or, um, burning, grab another.

    They had stuff in there from WWII and Korea, and even some 1930s odds and ends.

    It should be noted that a lot of ammo cans may have “disappeared” at that time too. The Army, frankly, did not care. The ammo was old, the weapons were being retired, and everything needed to go. 

    • #12
    • August 6, 2019, at 12:41 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Valiuth Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    But which enemy??

    So many choices.

    The greatest enemy of the Russian people. Their incompetent and corrupt Government. 

    • #13
    • August 6, 2019, at 12:44 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. SkipSul Moderator

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    If you don’t rotate your stock deliberately, it eventually becomes untrustworthy.

    Since I collect and shoot some antique firearms, I’ve had fun over the years acquiring and sometimes firing really ancient ammo. There’s something fun about touching off an 1890s cartridge in an 1870s rifle, but it ain’t predictable. Sometimes the brass shatters in the chamber, and you’ve got to tear the breach apart on the bench to clean it (still, firing my grandfather’s Werndl was terrific!). 

    Some ammo that I’ve acquired (usually someone giving me something they inherited) I’ve had to dispose of too, and carefully at that (a good bullet puller is invaluable here). You just never know, and if a case looks at all damaged, it’s usually a good idea to carefully disassemble the round and just keep it for show. If I have to take it apart, I do so with plenty of ventilation because sometimes you get some toxic vapors coming out when you remove the slug.

    • #14
    • August 6, 2019, at 12:54 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. Mark Wilson Member

    That rapidly expanding dome of vapor is called a Wilson cloud and it shows up in nuclear explosions too.

    • #15
    • August 6, 2019, at 1:07 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Hi Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    But other than those minor factors, everything was fine.

    Exactly so. In 1991 we were using “combat load,” rather than “training” ammunition in our Vulcans, firing aerial gunnery over the water from the shore. We did so because the ammunition, although properly stored, was quite old. We experienced occasional jams as the propellant gun powder had absorbed some moisture, clumping inside some shell casings and causing the powder to burn though the side of the metal casing.

    If you don’t rotate your stock deliberately, it eventually becomes untrustworthy.

    My dad was in the Ohio Guard in the late 60s and early 70s. We he first joined up he was issued an M1 (which he loved). Then when the regular Army retired the M14, his unit got some of those too (he was less than fond of those). Then when they were issued the M16, the Army sent his unit, and a lot of other guard units, up to Camp Perry on Lake Erie, with crates of M1s, M14s, and an unbelievable amount of ammo.

    Their job?

    Fire it all. When the rifles got too hot or, um, burning, grab another.

    They had stuff in there from WWII and Korea, and even some 1930s odds and ends.

    It should be noted that a lot of ammo cans may have “disappeared” at that time too. The Army, frankly, did not care. The ammo was old, the weapons were being retired, and everything needed to go.

    Some of it was stowed by troops in the walls and ceiling crawl spaces of old National Guard training area barracks, only to be discovered in, oh, say, 2013:

    Korean War vintage ammo

    • #16
    • August 6, 2019, at 2:22 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. SkipSul Moderator

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Hi Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    But other than those minor factors, everything was fine.

    Exactly so. In 1991 we were using “combat load,” rather than “training” ammunition in our Vulcans, firing aerial gunnery over the water from the shore. We did so because the ammunition, although properly stored, was quite old. We experienced occasional jams as the propellant gun powder had absorbed some moisture, clumping inside some shell casings and causing the powder to burn though the side of the metal casing.

    If you don’t rotate your stock deliberately, it eventually becomes untrustworthy.

    My dad was in the Ohio Guard in the late 60s and early 70s. We he first joined up he was issued an M1 (which he loved). Then when the regular Army retired the M14, his unit got some of those too (he was less than fond of those). Then when they were issued the M16, the Army sent his unit, and a lot of other guard units, up to Camp Perry on Lake Erie, with crates of M1s, M14s, and an unbelievable amount of ammo.

    Their job?

    Fire it all. When the rifles got too hot or, um, burning, grab another.

    They had stuff in there from WWII and Korea, and even some 1930s odds and ends.

    It should be noted that a lot of ammo cans may have “disappeared” at that time too. The Army, frankly, did not care. The ammo was old, the weapons were being retired, and everything needed to go.

    Some of it was stowed by troops in the walls and ceiling crawl spaces of old National Guard training area barracks, only to be discovered in, oh, say, 2013:

    Korean War vintage ammo

    Hmmm, how did they trace that…

    • #17
    • August 6, 2019, at 4:13 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Front Seat Cat Member

    From http://www.rsoe.com:

    An explosion at a Russian military base in Siberia set off fires and injured at least four people Monday, authorities said. The explosion happened in an ammunition depot at the base, located 10 kilometers from the closed military town of Achinsk in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia. Emergency service personnel evacuated residents within 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of the blast site “to ensure the security of the population of the settlements located near the depots.” Local authorities say residents don’t face an immediate threat but asked people to stay away from the military base. The Russian Defense Ministry said the storage site that exploded held “gunpowder charges for artillery shells.” The state-run TASS news agency quoted an anonymous source saying the depot held up to 40,000 artillery shells for tank guns. Ammunition depot explosions are not unusual in Russia. After the most recent incident in May 2019, a fire raged for almost a week before water drops from military aircraft and helicopters helped put out the blaze.

     

     

    • #18
    • August 6, 2019, at 5:04 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Hi Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    But other than those minor factors, everything was fine.

    Exactly so. In 1991 we were using “combat load,” rather than “training” ammunition in our Vulcans, firing aerial gunnery over the water from the shore. We did so because the ammunition, although properly stored, was quite old. We experienced occasional jams as the propellant gun powder had absorbed some moisture, clumping inside some shell casings and causing the powder to burn though the side of the metal casing.

    If you don’t rotate your stock deliberately, it eventually becomes untrustworthy.

    My dad was in the Ohio Guard in the late 60s and early 70s. We he first joined up he was issued an M1 (which he loved). Then when the regular Army retired the M14, his unit got some of those too (he was less than fond of those). Then when they were issued the M16, the Army sent his unit, and a lot of other guard units, up to Camp Perry on Lake Erie, with crates of M1s, M14s, and an unbelievable amount of ammo.

    Their job?

    Fire it all. When the rifles got too hot or, um, burning, grab another.

    They had stuff in there from WWII and Korea, and even some 1930s odds and ends.

    It should be noted that a lot of ammo cans may have “disappeared” at that time too. The Army, frankly, did not care. The ammo was old, the weapons were being retired, and everything needed to go.

    Some of it was stowed by troops in the walls and ceiling crawl spaces of old National Guard training area barracks, only to be discovered in, oh, say, 2013:

    Korean War vintage ammo

    Hmmm, how did they trace that…

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Nobody was doing any tracing or asking any questions, at all. If we found an old grenade, we did not, the post powers that be would get a bit excited. These eight rounds of blank, eight rounds of ball, and one tracer round were found in the ceiling crawl space. We weren’t poking around, just following up on the odd trooper-in-a-Wile-E-Coyote-pose hole in the ceiling tiles. Yup, some Joe went treasure hunting and…whaaaa! Thud!

    • #19
    • August 7, 2019, at 2:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Kozak Member

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Hi @skipsul: Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    And being handled by drunks smoking ….

    • #20
    • August 7, 2019, at 4:49 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. SkipSul Moderator

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Nobody was doing any tracing or asking any questions

    I was punning off of the tracer round in your photo.

    • #21
    • August 7, 2019, at 6:48 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Kozak (View Comment):

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Hi @skipsul: Thanks for the info. Knowing the Russians a lot of this is degraded, aged, contaminated, AND poorly stored.

    And being handled by drunks smoking ….

    You mean they’re doing ATF the wrong way?

    • #22
    • August 7, 2019, at 10:23 AM PDT
    • 1 like