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Sixteen people dead following blast at Russian gunpowder factory

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By AP
Firefighters put out the fire at the gunpowder and chemicals plant in Ryazan Region.
Firefighters put out the fire at the gunpowder and chemicals plant in Ryazan Region.   -   Copyright  Ministry of Emergency Situations press service via AP

An explosion and fire at a gunpowder factory in Russia has killed at least sixteen people, regional officials said.

A fire broke out at the factory in the Ryazan region after a "technological process", according to Russia's Emergency Ministry.

Seven people were initially reported to have been killed but the death toll rose to sixteen later on Friday morning. One other person was seriously injured and taken to hospital for treatment.

The explosion occurred in the village of Lesnoy in Shilovsky District, about 270 kilometres southeast of Moscow.

Images from the scene showed smoke billowing over a partially blown-out building and charred debris.

According to rescue workers, the workshop affected by the fire was completely destroyed.

More than 170 firefighters and rescue workers were dispatched to the scene to control the fire. Russia's acting Emergency Situations Minister, Alexander Chuprian, has also visited the scene.

"There is no threat to the population" of the nearby settlements, the ministry said in a statement.

The incident occurred at the site of the Elastik factory, which specialises in the manufacture of industrial explosives for civilian use.

According to their website, the factory also has "production capacity" for ammunition.

Elastik says it is considered a "strategic enterprise" by the Russian government and belongs to the state-owned Rostec conglomerate, which groups together a host of companies supplying industrial and high-tech products to the civilian and military sectors.

Officials are investigating potential violations of safety procedures or a short circuit among possible causes.

Accidental and deadly explosions or fires are common in Russia, due to the dilapidated infrastructure, or the failure to comply with safety standards.

In December 2020, eleven people died in a fire inside a retirement home in the Urals region.

Earlier that year, eleven and four people died in separate fires in Tomsk and Moscow in migrant accommodation.

The worst fire in recent years occurred in 2018, when 64 people died after flames engulfed a shopping centre, whose alarm systems and emergency exits were inoperable.