More than 30,000 people were evacuated from six villages in the 10-kilometer zone near Kalynivka, a town in Vinnytsya Oblast, some 270 kilometers southwest of Kyiv, due to the enormous fire at the nearby ammunition depot that started late on Sept. 26.
The fire started shortly before 10 p.m. on Sept. 26 at in the tank ammunition storage and led to the artillery shells exploding.
One woman was badly injured in the fire and taken to the Vinnytsya Central Hospital.
As of 10 a.m. on Sept. 27, the fire was still raging at the depot that reportedly stocks the second biggest collection of weapons in Ukraine.
By this time, the fire-fighters only managed to put off the fire in four residential buildings in Kalynivka, hit by the shells.
More than 150 fire-fighting vehicles and 690 fire-fighters, police, military, the National Guard officers were deployed to the scene.
Authorities prohibited flights in the 50-kilometer area around the depot, blocked the nearby highways and railway routes, causing traffic jams, and forcing 14 trains all over Ukraine to change their routes immediately. Electricity and gas were cut off in the area.
The evacuated citizens of Kalynivka and the nearby villages are sheltered in the central hospital and three high schools in Vinnytsya, where the studies were canceled, the city council reported.
As the fire and then the speedy evacuation started, many Ukrainians who have relatives in the area were trying to get hold of them. They posted desperate messages online.
“Help me to find my grandparents, both 74 years of age, living on 18 Ukrainska Street in Kalynivka. They don’t answer their phones. I am their granddaughter from Kyiv. I am already on my way there. Please tell me, where they are been evacuated,” Inna Tkachuk wrote on Facebook.
“Help me to find my brother and his family from Pavlivka (a village near Kalynivka),” Kyrylo Skorohod wrote.
Locals immediately volunteered to help with the evacuation. They posted dozens of messages online, offering to drive people out of the affected areas and to host them in their homes. Local businesses offered to shelter people in their shops, cafes, and even saunas.
“We were not heroes; we were just doing what was needed to be done in that moment. And there were dozens of others like us,” user Vadim Pavlov posted a photo of him, posing with his two other volunteers Vitaly Pavlovsky and Alexey Ryabokon.
From Left: Volunteers Vadim Pavlov, Alexey Ryabokon and Vitaly Pavlovsky pose for a photo after they helped dozens of Kalynivka residents to evacuate from the fire zone on Sept.26-Sept.27 ( photo Vadim Pavlov/Facebook
While the National Guard was 10 kilometers away from the blasts, all three could see the shells flying from the storage in different directions, Pavlov wrote, as they were helping locals, evacuating everybody they could in their cars.
“We didn’t give up even after we stunned by an explosion of the shell, that hit the ground near the house, from where we had to pick up a woman with two children,” Pavlov wrote.
Three men keep riding back and force to find the relatives of the people, who asked them for help.
“ We not only find all of them but also picked up several dozens of others. Thanks to all of the people, who helped,” Pavlov wrote.