Bulgaria's Blasted Military Depot Cleaning Finally Concludes

Politics » DEFENSE | July 25, 2012, Wednesday // 09:19
Cleaning of Bulgaria's Blasted Military Depot Finally Comes to End: Bulgaria's Blasted Military Depot Cleaning Finally Concludes Pictured: the explosion of the ammunition storage facility in Chelopechene shocked the Bulgarian capital Sofia on July 3, 2008. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's Deputy Defense Minister, Valentin Radev and the US Ambassador in Sofia, James Warlick are announcing Wednesday the conclusion of the cleaning of the Chelopechene military storage.

This is also the end of the cleaning operations of the American company Sterling International.

Radev and Warlick will hold a joint press conference at the site of the incident.

The Deputy Chief of the Joint Military Command, Rear Admiral Valentin Gagshev, the Chief of the Land Forces, General Major, Stefan Vasilev, and representatives of Sterling International will attend as well.

On July 3, 2008, in what has been Bulgaria's "most impressive" incident of its kind, the military storage site near the village of Chelopechene right outside of the Bulgarian capital Sofia exploded, with blasts lingering for days. The explosions engulfed explosive processing facilities with 2 500 metric tons of conventional munitions and 20 tons of TNT. Nobody got injured but the residents of the villages of Chelopech and Chepintsi, deemed districts of Sofia, were evacuated.

Around 7 am on July 3, 2008 the capital Sofia was shaken by powerful gunpowder explosions, initially causing panic among the two-and-a-half million residents of the Bulgarian capital as the authorities including the Defense Ministry, the General Staff of the Army, and the Interior Ministry failed to react and explain the causes of the explosions for almost an hour after they started.

Fortunately, no one was killed or injured in the Chelopechene explosions, but the blasts did cause material damages in the northern suburbs of Sofia. The conventional explosives continued to go off for days after the initial blasts were over, and it took the authorities several weeks to secure the site.

The munitions storehouse explosions at Sofia's Chelopechene led the US State Department to include Bulgaria in the list of states with poorly maintained munitions depots. It said Bulgaria is the only NATO and EU member state with exploding munitions facilities.

According to a report by the US State Department, the Chelopechene incident, which panicked more than two million people in Sofia, together with a similar one in Uzbekistan on July 10, are "the latest in a series of incidents spanning many years and among the most recent manifestations of an international problem that has worsened since the end of the Cold War - government arms depots filled with ageing, unstable, poorly maintained, improperly stored, and weakly guarded munitions."

The US State Department concluded that such high-risk military storage facilities could cause more casualties every year that landmines and other explosive remnants of wars

After the blast the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office ordered a complex fire and explosion expert report, but the cause remains unclear and no one has been indicted.

In mid-October 2011, the Defense Ministry reported that a large amount of explosives was missing from Chelopechene.

14 unexploded 85-millimeter projectiles disappeared from Chelopechene then.

Authorities in Bulgaria established the perpetrators and two men with criminal records were arrested. They made full confessions and collaborated with military police with giving details on how the theft occurred and on the current location of the stolen explosives.

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Tags: Valentin Radev, James Warlick, US, ambassador, ammunition, ammunitions, Chelopechene, MANPADS, Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, Defense Ministry, Department of State, US state department, Bulgaria, Bulgarian

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