Ukraine battles deadly blaze after huge fuel depot blast near Kiev

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Media captionVideo shows a huge tower of smoke and flames rising into the sky, as Tom Burridge reports

Emergency crews are continuing to battle a huge fire south-west of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, following a blast at a fuel depot.

Four people were killed, including three emergency ministry employees.

The fire at the depot, next to an army base near the town of Vasylkiv, sent huge plumes of smoke over the surrounding area.

Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko warned that harmful substances in the air over the city exceeded maximum allowed levels.

He urged residents with respiratory problems to limit their "exposure to the open air".

The cause of the blaze about 30km (19 miles) from Kiev is being investigated, with officials say it may have been negligence or arson.

Image copyright Ukraine emergencies ministry
Image caption The fire burned through the night
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The sky turned black in scenes reminiscent of a war zone

Meanwhile, the army has been clearing a munitions storage facility, located about 50m (164ft) away, according to Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine's national security and defence council.

Fears it could spread

The blaze broke out on Monday evening in one tank and spread to neighbouring containers, Ukraine's emergencies ministry said (in Ukrainian).

A large explosion occurred shortly after 08:00 local time (06:00 BST) on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov tweeted: "There has been an explosion at the oil depot near Vasylkiv. A huge one."

He later wrote: "Unfortunately, the bodies of three emergency ministry employees have been found."

Mr Avakov also said that the blaze was localised.

Earlier, Ukrainian officials reported the death of one person. He is believed to be a depot employee.

Image copyright Ukraine emergencies ministry
Image caption Fire crews are trying to stop the blaze spreading to an adjacent depot
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption People in the surrounding area have been taken to safety

Of the 16 tanks on fire, eight were said to have a capacity of 900 cubic metres (32,000 cu ft) each.

Two hundred firefighters have been trying to bring the fire under control amid fears it could spread to an adjacent depot.

People in a 2km (1.24 miles) zone around the petrol containers currently on fire have been evacuated, Mr Turchynov said.

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