The blast occurred at 6.45 pm local time after a fire began at the military base in Baizak district, 30 kilometers from the city of Taraz, and quickly ignited the engineering ammunition that was stored there.
At the time of writing, nine people were killed, all of whom died trying to eliminate the fire at the base – Sergeant Marat Meshinbai (1981), Corporal Ruslan Zhanbolatov (1981), a paramilitary guard Orazbek Dalibayev (1969), and military prosecutor and Colonel Arman Kapezov.
“Sergeant Marat Meshinbai and Corporal Ruslan Zhanbolatov were part of the military unit’s firefighting team deployed during the first minutes of the fire, working to extinguish the fire. Being close to the explosions, they sustained fatal injuries. A paramilitary guard, Orazbek Dalibayev, was also on duty as assistant chief of the guard at the depot and was killed by the ammunition explosion while performing his duties,” said the ministry in an official statement.
On the morning of Aug. 27, it became known that one more person died in the blast.
“Chief of the fire department, sergeant Yerkin Nadirbekov, born in 1992. He was in charge of extinguishing a fire at an engineering ammunition depot. He died at the scene after the explosion. He was listed among the servicemen whose whereabouts were unknown on the morning of Aug. 27,” reported the ministry.
The identities of four more servicemen are yet to be confirmed. Some still remain missing.
Minister of Defense Nurlan Yermekbayev and Minister of Emergency Situations Yuriy Iliyin flew to the district shortly after the explosion.
Nearly 1,200 people from nearby villages have been evacuated. At least 90 were injured, and nearly half of them are emergency department workers.
“In total, there were more than 10 relatively small explosions at different time intervals. (…) Only engineering ammunition was stored at this base. Part of it had been removed two years ago from the town of Arys. If an explosion were to occur, the engineering ammunition would then not be blown far away – it would explode on the spot,” said Minister of Defense Nurlan Yermekbayev at an emergency briefing on Aug. 27. He is ready to step down over the incident.
Road traffic and railway service remain suspended at the time of writing.
A criminal case was initiated, wrote President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on his Twitter shortly after the blast. He also urged the residents to remain calm.
At the moment of writing, no cause for the explosion has been determined and no date has been announced for the return of the evacuated residents.
The military unit and the engineering ammunition depot have existed since 1972. Two people were killed and dozens injured in a similar accident in June 2019. The explosion occurred on a military base just outside of the town of Arys which sent debris flying damaging nearby private property and igniting additional fires nearby. All 44,000 residents were evacuated back then.
Some of the engineering ammunition has been moved to a warehouse in the Zhambyl region since 2019.
“This type of ammunition is designed for detonation and has no long-range projectiles. Therefore, no fragments were dispersed as a result of the explosions. The explosions mainly generate shock waves, a large sound impact, and flame,” explained the ministry.
The engineering ammunition was stored in above-ground storage facilities. There are no underground storage facilities at the depot nor other types of ammunition, such as artillery, reactive, anti-aircraft, missile, small arms.