KIEV, Ukraine, June 9 (UPI) -- A fire followed a huge explosion Tuesday morning at an oil depot outside Kiev, Ukraine, with 17 oil tanks burning and four people believed killed.
"As of 7 a.m. on June 9, a fire in one 900-cubic-meter (31.782 cubic feet) fuel tank has been put out; firefighters continue extinguishing 16 more tanks," the national Emergency Services Ministry reported. The fire broke out in oil storage tanks near the town of Vasylkiv and adjacent to the Hlevakha airbase on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. The army had been clearing a munitions storage facility several hundred feet away from the site of the fire.
A source at the ministry said four firefighters had died and the Interior Ministry reported one worker had died after sustaining burns. Other officials said three firefighters had died and six were missing.
The fire began late Monday in one tank, and quickly spread to adjacent tanks. Workers and area residents were evacuated by Tuesday morning. An Interior Ministry statement suggested a technical failure was the cause, and that criminal charges, for failing to follow safety rules, could be made; the Kiev prosecutor's office has opened a criminal investigation into the incident.
"Firefighters have died. The emergency services are pulling together whatever they can, the alarm has been raised to the National Guard. We're working," read the official Twitter account of Arsen Avakov, Ukrainian Interior Minister.
The incident occurred in western Ukraine and is not believed related to separatist conflict in the eastern part of the country.