Kazakhstan Defence Minister Resigns after Fatal Explosion that ‘Looked Like a Nuclear Strike’
Kazakh Defence Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev attends military exercises held by assault troops at a firing ground in Almaty Region, Kazakhstan, April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
Caught on camera, a fireball exploding over southern Kazakhstan was said by some horrified spectators to look frighteningly like the mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb. While a little less cataclysmic, the reality was still horrifying, causing at least 12 deaths and over 90 injuries, with 28 of the hurt requiring intensive care. The blast occurred on August 26 in the Bayzakov district of Kazakhstan’s Zhambyl Province when a fire ignited a military-engineering warehouse containing 500 tonnes of explosives.
Over the weekend the death toll was updated to 15 and on Tuesday 31 August, Kazakh Defence Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev was relieved of his duties. In announcing a successor, Kazakhstan’s president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev underlined the unacceptability of situations such as the recent blast, reminding his audience that this was not the first case of mysterious explosions in Kazakhstan’s military installations. Back in 2019, photos had shown a similar mushroom cloud rising over the town of Arys whose population of over 40,000 was evacuated.
Several motorists captured the scene on film, driving the route from Almaty to Taraz on the Kyrgyz border. The residents of four nearby villages were reportedly evacuated in case of further explosions. The cause of the fire remains unknown.