Serbia Munitions Factory Explosion Causes Worker and Residential Evacuations
The ammunition depot of the Sloboda factory in Cacak, Serbia, witnessed a series of explosions last week, causing police to evacuate and seal off the area for more than 24 hours.
The news was reported on Friday by AP, who clarified that nobody was injured in the explosions.
Video used courtesy of RTS
At this time, it is not yet clear what caused the accident.
With roughly 2,000 employees, Sloboda is one of the biggest munitions factories in Serbia.
First established in 1948, the factory prospered under Tito in former Yugoslavia, counting more than 7,000 employees and manufacturing a vast variety of military use products as well as home appliances.
Sloboda Cacak was then targeted and severely damaged in a 1999 NATO bombing campaign during the war in Kosovo, and was partially rebuilt and improved through governmental investments between 2016 and 2021.
The factory specializes in the manufacturing of different types of ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). These include M79 Osa, M80 Zolja, and M90 Stršljen rockets, together with 100 mm and 125 mm tank ammunition; 20, 23, 30, 37, 40, and 57 mm caliber ammunition; and 76, 100, 105, 122, 152, 155 mm artillery ammunition.
According to local media reports, the blasts at Sloboda Cacak were first heard around 1:30 a.m. and lasted for hours until the morning.
A large fire ensued, which saw the prompt evacuation of adjacent buildings, and the intervention of firefighters 24 hours after the last explosions. According to RTS, helicopters of the Serbian Army performed a total of 50 raids and dumped 110,000 liters of water on the facility before the fires were fully extinguished.
Smoke rising from the site of the explosions. Image used courtesy of RTS
The fire and explosions took place in the company’s warehouse, which reportedly stored lighters’ components, and is located about 800 meters away from the company's production facilities. The impact of the accident could have been much greater if the fire had happened in the warehouse, where ammunition and rockets are manufactured.
“We were lucky the explosion didn’t take place in the production halls,” Cacak Mayor Milun Todorovic told RTS.
In a recent statement to Tanjug, Sloboda director Zoran Stefanović stated that a piece of gunpowder caught fire on Friday night, but the company does not believe that was the reason behind the accident.
Therefore, the causes of the explosions remain officially unknown, but Sloboda has formed a commission to investigate them.
During a press conference held over the weekend, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters that early damages caused by the explosions and fires are estimated to reach up to 2 million euros ($2.4 million).
In addition, all Sloboda Cacak facilities remained closed to workers and the general public on Saturday and Sunday. Workers managed to return to work on Monday after firefighters deemed the accident site safe.