The morning after the devastating blast at an explosives plant in the north-western Bulgarian village of Gorni Lom saw no clarity about the fate of workers who had been at the site, where the explosion left a huge crater and destroyed two buildings.
Unofficial estimates are that the death toll could be up to 15 people.
Debris was found more than 600 metres from the site of the explosion, which happened on the late afternoon of October 1.
A resident of the village told bTV that the sound of the blast was such that it was “as if an aircraft had crashed”.
The blast site was sealed off and senior officials, including cabinet ministers and police and emergency services chiefs, reached the village on the night of October 1.
The mobile phones of the people who had been at the site of the explosion were not working.
The wife of the executive director of the company that owns the plant, Emil Mitkov, said that there was no coverage inside the plant and it was impossible to get in touch with people at the plant while at work. Her husband had been at the plant when the blast happened.
Nikolai Nikolov, head of the directorate-general for fire safety and civil protection, told reporters that examination of the site so far had revealed no signs of life. He said that there was little hope that anyone had survived the explosion.
By late on October 1, four thermal imaging cameras were being used at the site.
Procedurally, investigators would not be able to enter the site until 24 hours had passed since the last secondary explosion.
However, reports said that there were three volunteers prepared to enter the site – in spite of the legal prohibition on doing so – if any signs of life were detected.
Air and water samples taken after the blast showed no signs of toxic contamination, authorities said.
The owner of the company that owns the Midzhur factory, Valeri Mitkov – father of the executive director – said he had no information on which workers had been at the site but said that his son, the factory director and the head of production had been there. He said that he had not been permitted to go past the cordoned-off perimeter.
Bulgarian National Radio said that the plant had been used for the disposal of Greek anti-personnel and anti-tank mines.
It was also licensed for the production and processing of ammunition.
An official inspection on September 15 had found that workplace conditions and processes were below the required standards.
Since 2007, this was the third serious accident at the plant.
Svetlozar Lazarov, chief secretary of the Interior Ministry, said that the inspection in mid-September had found shortcomings in the manufacturing technology and storage of ammunition.
Later on October 2, an unmanned drone aircraft would be used for an aerial inspection of the site, BNR said.