At least one person has reportedly been killed while three others are missing after an explosion at the factory of Czech ammunition manufacturer Sellier & Bellot.
“At this moment I can confirm that there has been [an explosion] in the area of arms factories in Vlašimi,” police spokeswoman Eva Benešovská Stulíková told local media outlet ZprávyExtra (Google Translate link).
News website aktualne.cz reports fire brigade spokesman Ladislav Holomcik saying: “Apparently there was an explosion on the ground floor and underground warehouses, which collapsed after the explosion. How many there were explosives [sic], nobody knows.”
Holomcik told the Associated Press that the explosion took place just before 1pm on Monday at the plant, which is located in the town of Vlasim, 37 miles southeast of Prague.
At the time of writing, it appears that firefighters are still waiting for the all-clear before gaining access to the plant.
A statement attributed to the company said that the explosion occurred in a storage location for material used in the manufacture of matches. Aktualne.cz reports that the explosive was “trinitroresorciát”, or lead styphnate in English, which according to a spokesman for the Czech Mining Office is a feedstock that is used for further processing of gunpowder. UK Shooting News’ understanding is that lead styphnate is the main ingredient of the explosive compound used in primers for small arms ammunition.
Sellier & Bellot is said to produce two million rounds of small arms ammunition per day, of which two thirds is sold to the civilian sporting sector. The company is owned by Brazil’s CBC, a major South American ammunition manufacturer. Czech-language news website E15 states that a 2003 explosion at the S&B plant killed one man and injured another. In that case the explosion was caused by mercury fulminate, used as a core ingredient of percussion caps and primers, which had apparently been left in an abandoned building.
S&B is one of Europe’s two main sporting ammunition manufacturers, the other being Prvi Partisan of Serbia. An interruption in supply will undoubtedly mean increased retail prices for sporting and target shooters alike as supply lines run dry.