Massive explosion at EV battery warehouse in Uzbekistan kills 15-year-old boy, injures 163
By Belle Carter // Oct 01, 2023

A giant explosion followed by a fire that completely destroyed a customs warehouse near an airport in Uzbekistan also killed a 15-year-old boy and injured at least 162 people.

Video and photos of the blast flooded social media showing a massive conflagration and a big mushroom cloud of smoke that was visible across Tashkent. The Inter Logistics LLC explosion reportedly occurred at 2.43 a.m. local time and likewise caused damage to hundreds of houses and other buildings over a vast area up to 20 miles away.

Conflicting reports are coming out about the exact cause of the explosion. Initial reports suggested a plane crash, which authorities in the ex-Soviet state deny as the cause of the thunderous explosion that shook much of the city. Meanwhile, the nation's Ministry of Health blamed lightning that struck the depository. But there were later doubts that lightning had been a factor in the explosion. There were also suspicions that explosives were present in the warehouse given the scale of the blast, but this was officially denied.

Russian state media Tass later reported that the warehouse contained several dozen electric vehicles and batteries. It said that the explosion also caused minor damage to the nearby Quruvchilar subway station. The Associated Press reported that 24 people were hospitalized and the remaining 138 were treated for their injuries and sent home, according to the health ministry. The agency added that Uzbekistan's leading medical specialists were treating the casualties. The boy who died was crushed when a window frame fell on him.

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The Ministry of Emergency Situations said the powerful blast was attended by 16 fire crews. Dozens of ambulances immediately sent the wounded to hospitals and at least five children were hurt by shattered glass. It is still unclear how many people were in the warehouse when it exploded.

A lot of Uzbeks personally observed while others saw the horrifying images and footage on the internet, adding to the urgency of the situation as people ran out of their houses in panic. A local resident said: "It was very scary." "I woke up at night. I thought it was an earthquake," said Koutepov Moustafo, a 72-year-old retiree who lives nearby and whose house was affected. "Then I saw the fire. My son was injured in the leg."

While flight operations at Tashkent International Airport appeared to be operating normally, a closure notice has been issued for the runway during specific hours. The reason for this closure was not initially provided.

Uzbekistan is the most populous of the central Asian former Soviet republics, and fires attributed to dilapidated equipment and poor adherence to safety standards are reportedly common there.

The blast sent a huge fireball into the air

NY and SF fire departments: Lithium-ion battery fires caused at least 20 deaths and more than 300 injuries since 2019

Data that came from New York City and San Francisco fire departments via CBS News revealed that there have been at least 20 deaths and more than 300 injuries in those cities caused by lithium-ion battery fires. These types of rechargeable batteries that power common items like e-bikes, scooters, and electric cars pose a dangerous threat. According to them, they burn hotter and longer than most materials and many fire departments may be unprepared to handle them.

Since at least 2019, fire departments in the two cities say they've responded to at least 669 incidents combined. In June, four people were killed and two others seriously injured after a lithium-ion battery malfunctioned and sparked a fire in a first-floor e-bike shop in New York. Fire officials say the blaze quickly spread to apartments above the shop. Last year, there were more than 200 fires blamed on lithium-ion batteries in New York City. Since then, the city has recorded 326 injuries related to these types of fires, while San Francisco recorded seven in the same period.

Additionally, in 2022, most of the Big Apple's rechargeable battery-related fires caused structural damage. In San Francisco, about a third caused structural damage. Experts say much of the problem stems from unregulated aftermarket chargers that are not required to be certified.  In some cases, products left plugged in have overcharged causing batteries to malfunction, overheat and combust.

After the deadly fire, the New York City Council passed several bills to strengthen fire safety. The said legislation aims to restrict the sale, lease, or rental of powered mobility devices and storage batteries that fail to meet safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent and not-for-profit testing laboratory –  as the council and the organization claimed.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act, which would set standards for rechargeable?lithium-ion batteries and set nationwide consumer guidelines to protect people and responders from fires caused by the batteries. (Related: BURNING ISSUE: Toronto landlord prohibits "potential fire hazard" personal EVs on property; tenants' rights advocates outraged.)

Check out for stories about electric vehicles and the disadvantages of lithium batteries.

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