One dead after blasts at eastern Ukraine arms depot

Smoke billows after a series of explosions at an ammunition depot near the Ukrainian city of Balakliya, on March 23, 2017

Ukraine on Friday said one person has died as a result of a fire that broke out at an arms depot in the country's east, sparking explosions and forcing a mass evacuation.

Ukrainian authorities have blamed Thursday's fire on an "act of sabotage" and opened investigations into possible "diversion" or negligence of military personnel.

"The body of a woman born in 1951 was recovered from under the debris of a collapsed house," the head of Ukraine's emergency service, Mykola Chechotkin, said Friday, Interfax Ukraine news agency reported.

Five people were injured from the blasts, three of whom remain in hospital, regional health authorities said in comments to Ukrainian television.

The fire erupted at the munitions depot in the town of Balakliya in the Kiev-controlled part of eastern Ukraine, located some 140 kilometres (87 miles) from the frontline where government forces are fighting pro-Russian rebels.

The blaze set off several blasts that forced authorities to evacuate thousands of people.

Deputy defence minister Igor Pavlovsky said Friday that the fire at the depot had been put out.

Ukraine has temporarily closed the airspace in a 40-kilometre radius around the arms depot, the deputy infrastructure minister Yuriy Lavrenyuk wrote on Facebook.

Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said authorities were considering a theory that the fire was caused by "explosive devices dropped from an unmanned aerial vehicle", Interfax Ukraine news agency reported.

President Petro Poroshenko ordered increased security controls at the nation's military facilities, spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko said.

The Ukrainian military has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the country's east since April 2014 in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.

The depot in Balakliya housed munitions and arms used by Ukrainian troops fighting the insurgents, according to Ukrainian television.

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