Investigators enter site of Gorni Lom deadly blast as Bulgaria mourns

Investigators were to enter the devastated site of the Gorni Lom explosives plant blast on the morning of October 3, to begin to establish the reasons for the tragedy that left 15 people dead and put Bulgaria in a state of national mourning.

Aerial footage taken by a drone showed that the October 1 explosion at the plant, where activities included manual dismantling of Greek-made anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, showed craters, destroyed buildings and the impact of the force of the blast on surrounding trees.

On October 2, only firefighters with specialised equipment were allowed within the safety perimeter that was put up soon after the explosion.

Bulgaria’s cabinet declared October 3 a day of national mourning.

Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov has taken personal charge of the investigation into the fatal blast. A team of 15 officials from the National Investigation Service has been sent to the area to work on the investigation.

Bulgarian army munitions experts are also assisting with the investigation.

Doctors from the Department of Forensic Medicine at Sofia’s Alexandrovska Hospital will assist in examining the site. Earlier, officials said that no one could have survived the powerful blast, and that no remains had been found of the 15 people who had been at the site.

So far, investigators have seized documents, including licences and permits for operations involving explosives and ammunition, from the Videx company that owns the Midzhur plant in Gorni Lom. The company’s office in Sofia was searched.

Reports said that it had been established that the plant had operated under contract for processing and dismantling landmines for a Greek company. The contract was first signed in July 2008 and renewed in July 2013.

Trade unions put the blame for the accident on failure by supervisory authorities to do their jobs properly and called for reforms to prevent a repeat of such accidents.

In the first hours after the Gorni Lom explosion, it was confirmed that there had been two other serious accidents at the plant, in 2007 and 2010.

Bulgarian National Television reported on October 2 that last week, workers at the Midzhur plant had staged a protest against working conditions and wages that were described as “symbolic”.

The father of one of the workers who died in the blast, a 26-year-old man, said that he believed that everyone was aware of the unacceptable conditions at the plant’s workshops.

“I doubt if anyone didn’t know, and if there is someone who didn’t, I’d be surprised. If the people who are control concealed this, that’s a crime,” said the parent, himself a former employee at the plant.



The Sofia Globe staff

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