Deadly blasts in Bulgaria rip through plant decommissioning land mines

Demining Accident Simulation in Sibenik 2013

The Bulgarian government said Thursday 2nd of October that 15 people had died in the northwest after explosions the night before tore through a plant that decommissions land mines.

Fearing further blasts, the government sent an armored vehicle into the plant Thursday morning, with drones flying overhead to assess the damage.

The government declared a day of national mourning on Friday, and the major political parties suspended their campaigns for elections, which are scheduled for Sunday.

The explosions occurred at the privately owned Midzhur plant near Gorni Lom, a village about 90 miles northwest of Sofia, the capital. The government said that the 15 people had been working in the plant taking apart Greek land mines when the first explosion occurred, and that smaller blasts continued for hours.

"After the examination we made, the hopes to find survivors have completely vanished," said Nikolay Nikolov, director of the General Directorate for Fire Safety and Civil Protection, the Bulgarian news media reported. "We will still continue surveying and examining the perimeter with the hope to find survivors, but I think that 13 men and two women have died in the blast."

The plant is in Montana Province, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest member state. In July, the unemployment rate in Montana was 21 percent, according to government data. On Thursday morning, Labor Minister Yordan  Hristoskov said workers at the plant had received a monthly wage of 240 leva, or $154.

Bulgaria, a country of about 7.3 million, has large amounts of ammunition dating from the Communist era, and similar episodes have multiplied in recent years. Three people were killed in June 2012 at a privately owned ammunition facility near Sliven in the east. Six people were wounded in the most recent explosions at the Midzhur plant, in 2007 and 2010.

One employee was absent at the time of the explosions, Interior Minister Yordan Bakalov said. Three women who were passing near the entrance to the plant were taken to the hospital with bone fractures, the Interior Ministry said.

By GEORGI KANTCHEVOCT. 2, 2014 The New York Times

More info: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/03/world/europe/deadly-blasts-in-bulgaria-rip-through-plant-decommissioning-land-mines.html?_r=0