Firefighters have been battling a blaze covering 30 square metres which engulfed the facility after the blast

A massive gas explosion has sparked a fire at a Russian lab that houses viruses ranging from smallpox to Ebola, authorities have said.

The State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology has said a cylinder exploded in lab which is one of two places in the world that houses the smallpox disease which has been eradicated in the world.

Other highly lethal diseases that are stored there include Anthrax and Ebola.

Located in Koltsovo, in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia, the site is thought to be where biological weapons have been made.

Firefighter and rescue teams responded to the explosion before it was realised what the possible implications could be.

Russian media have reported that the “the situation was quickly upgraded from an ordinary emergency to a major incident”.

One worker suffered third-degree burns after the blast, which blew out the glass in the building.

Firefighters have been battling a blaze covering 30 square metres which engulfed the facility after the blast.

Dr. Joseph Kam, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at the Stanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases (CEID) told CNN rules for storing viruses are very strict and highly dangerous diseases such as Ebola and smallpox would be stored in the highest “Level 4” laboratory.

Access to the samples would be limited, special containers are used and the storage mechanism is different from other laboratories, Kam said.

He added that while fire would be hot enough to destroy viruses, an explosion could risk spreading the virus and there would be a danger of infecting those in the room or contaminating the immediate area.

“Viruses are fragile and more than 100 degrees or more will kill them,” Kam said.

He added that under certain circumstances, an explosion could spread the virus.

“Part of the wave of the force of the explosion would carry it away from the site when it was first stored,” he said.

That contamination zone could be 10 to a few hundred meters depending on the size of the blast and other factors such as wind speed and direction, and whether it was an airborne virus.

The incident comes just weeks after an explosion near the site of a suspected failed missile test in northern Russia that killed at least five nuclear specialists and caused radiation levels to spike.

Conflicting official accounts regarding the incident heightened concerns of a potential cover-up.

Comments

comments