Natech Accident
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Type
Natech Accident
Date
2023/07/27
Time
19:18
Status
Published

Units Involved

  1. Name
    Ammunition depot
    Type
    Storage: Warehouse

Event Sequences

  1. Name
    Explosion and fire at the ammunition depot (111 Combat Wing)
    Unit
    1. Ammunition depot
    Description
    Two major wildfires broke out in the area of Magnesia on 26 July (in Almyros and near Velestino).
    Strong winds enabled the spreading of wildfires that reached the Nea Anchialos Air Base and its ammunition depot, where bombs of general use (1000, 500, 250 kg) were stored. The ammunitions were stored in an outdoor area surrounded by dykes. The developed high thermal load at the area triggered several powerful explosions, including a dramatic blast heard at 19:18 (16:18 GMT).
    Initiating EventCritical EventMajor Event
    Natural Hazard: Other
    Strong winds contributed to the spreading of wildfires, which reached the Nea Anchialos Air Base and its ammunition depot and significantly increased the thermal load at the area. According to a national newspaper ("Greek daily Kathimerini") the munitions that blew up may have been overheated rather than coming into direct contact with the fires.
    Contributing Factors
    Organisational: Isolation of equipment / system: Inappropriate
    Inappropriate cleaning/removal of flammable materials at the northern side of the Nea Anchialos Air Base, which pertains to a slope of restricted/difficult access.
    The associated tributary area was roughly 800-900 meters long and 100-150 meters deep, i.e. a large area inside the military base, which was not cleaned appropriately by the competent authorities.

    The wildfire reached the above area, which enabled the spreading of the fire that approached the ammunition depot.
    Organisational: Isolation of equipment / system: Inadequate
    Very narrow protective fire zones were not adequate to limit the consequences of the high thermal load due to the spreading of wildfires to the northern side of the Air Base.
    -
    Explosion: Detonation
    Due to high thermal load at the area and in the absence of appropriate fire safety measures (such as pouring of water or using retarding liquids/agents), the stored ammunitions exploded.
    Contributing Factors
    Measure: Emergency water systems: Non-existent

Weather Conditions

Precipitation
None
Temperature
32.3 °C
Humidity
43.3 %
Average Wind Speed
15.3 m/s

Emergency Response

Response Teams and Equipment Involved
  • On-site fire fighting trucks
  • Local fire fighting team
Sheltering and Evacuation due to the Natech event
On-site evacuation
Response to the Natech Event
- On-site and national firefighting trucks arrived at the site to extinguish the fire.
- Dozens of firefighters worked in the area, assisted by 15 fire engines.
- The intervention of the fire brigade was delayed but an evacuation order for the area was given as a protection measure towards the Air Base's personnel.
- Several nearby villages were also evacuated. 133 residents of the nearby town of Nea Anchialos escaped by sea.
- A security zone has been set up around the Greek Air Force Base after wildfires triggered powerful explosions at an ammunition depot.
- F-16 fighter jets were moved from a nearby air base as a precautionary measure.

Consequences

Human Health Impacts
No severe injuries, no casualties
Community Disruption
- Shock waves were felt some distance up the coast of the Magnesia region in the city of Volos, miles away from the ammunition depot.
- Windows on houses were shattered in Nea Anchialos.

Remedial Activities

Remediation Activities
- Air force and fire crews sprayed coolant on the ammunition depot to extinguish the fire.

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned on Equipment
1. For ammunitions that are stored outdoors but not buried, appropriate fire protection systems should be in place, such as water systems or fire retarding liquids/agents.

2. The buried/underground ammunition depots (NATO type) were not affected.
Lessons Learned on Organisational Aspects
1. According to the official conclusions of the "Sworn Administrative Examination" Board, the accident was attributed to omissions and negligence by Air Force officials.

2. The inadequate design of the fire protection system contributed also to the accident. This lesson learned can steer a decision-making process on more efficient fire safety measures to deal with asymmetric threats against military installations. The latter requires a wider consensus and the ratification of relevant design standards at the level of General Staffs.

3. Due to difficult access at the north side of the Air Base, the necessary cleaning operations were demanding, requiring the use of expert teams and specialised equipment. This lesson learned should pave the way towards relevant mandates being issued for other military bases under similar conditions.

4. The ammunition depot was so tightly packed that its fire safety systems had not worked (newspaper: "Greek daily Kathimerini").
Lessons Learned on Mitigation Measures
1. The presence of dykes worked well in restraining the spread of the shock waves. The dykes were in line with international provisions for storing exclusively bombs of general use, as specified into manufacture's manuals and data-sheets.

2. All areas, including those with restricted or difficult access, should be appropriated cleaned by removing flammable materials.

3. The protective fire zone should comply with the minimum required dimensions to allow access to fire fighting trucks and prevent the transfer of thermal loads from adjacent sources (e.g. wildfires).
Lessons Learned on Emergency Response Aspects
1. Following the explosions, the situation remained critical as it was possible that projectiles and ammunitions could have been scattered over large distances and remain active (according to officials).

2. Personnel at the air force base had been trained for this kind of emergency, which contributed to the fast evacuation of the base and the transfer of planes to nearby airports.
ID: 102, Created: Kyriaki GKOKTSI, 2023-08-04 14:30:51 – Last Updated: Kyriaki GKOKTSI, 2024-02-07 17:08:38

Attachments

NoDescriptionFile Size
1.BBC News6.73MB
2.Doureios Ippos News1.55MB
3.OT GR1.00MB
4.The President News996.89KB