Russian authorities are claiming it was a rocket explosion but residents in the area near the village of Nyonoksa in Arkhangelsk region say it is a nuclear weapons test facility – and today they had an explosion so large, nearby towns have been instructed to stay indoors and take iodine tablets. Shipping in a nearby bay was immediately closed off and the town of Severodvinsk (population 185,000) reported a spike in radiation levels.
The Russian defense ministry initially claimed radiation levels in the area were normal before ultimately admitting to the explosion after a video of the event leaked on the Internet. Greenpeace is reporting radiation levels that are 20-times normal in areas as far as 20 miles from the accident site. The environmental group said it had appealed to Russia’s consumer watchdog to establish how high radiation had risen, whether it posed a health risk to other nearby countries.
The explosion was the second major incident to hit the military in Russia this week. A series of blasts rocked an arms depot at a military base in Siberia on Monday, killing one, injuring 13 and prompting authorities to evacuate thousands of people from nearby settlements.