At least three people were injured in a powerful blast at an explosives factory in Gorni Lom in Bulgaria’s Vidin region on October 1.
Unconfirmed media reports said that about 15 people were on shift at the time of the explosion and it was feared that they were dead.
Two of the injured were admitted to hospital in Montana for treatment for fractures while another victim was in hospital in Vidin. None was in critical condition, reports said.
The scene of the blast was inaccessible because of secondary explosions.
It also emerged that the Midzhur plant had a bad track record, having seen a similar serious explosion in 2010.
Caretaker Interior Minister Yordan Bakalov, who was among senior officials who made their way to the site, said that he had been informed that an inspection 15 days ago had found serious shortcomings in the management of the factory and fines had been imposed, and he said that it was clear that there was a “lack of discipline” in the way it was run.
According to Bulgarian National Television, authorities said that there was no danger to the people of the nearby village of Dolni Lom, but residents of the villages were upset and wanted the factory closed because there had been a series of accidents there.
Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov ordered officers from the National Investigation Service to go to the site of the blast, while the district prosecutor’s office in Vidin was initiating an investigation.
Bakalov said that an initial inspection of the site would make use of drones and robots. Investigators would not enter the scene until 24 hours after the last secondary explosions.
He said that he could not say whether there were casualties or other injured people because it was impossible to enter the perimeter, which had been sealed off.
Other officials already at the scene included the chief secretary of the Interior Ministry, Svetlozar Lazarov and the head of the directorate-general for fire safety and population protection, Nikolai Nikolov.
Power distribution company CEZ said that the explosion had left two hydro-electric power plants in the area without electricity.
President Rossen Plevneliev’s office said that the head of state was closely monitoring the situation in Dolni Lom and was in constant contact with the interior and defence ministers and local authorities.
Plevneliev expressed hope that the injured would make a speedy recovery. He called for clarification of the causes of the accident and for the situation at the plant to be resolved.
The explosion came a few days before Bulgaria’s October 5 2014 early parliamentary elections. Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB said that in response to the Gorni Lom tragedy it was cancelling concerts and other events in its campaign. The Bulgarian Socialist Party said that it was cancelling its campaign-closing event in Veliko Turnovo, and called on the caretaker government to declare a day of national mourning for the victims of the explosion.