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Czech state to buy Vrbětice ammunition dump

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Prague, Feb 17 (CTK) – The Czech state will try to buy all land in the Vrbetice complex, in which big explosions occurred in 2014, ammunition will not be stored on the premises anymore and training and drone testing are to take place there, Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The Vrbetice complex has been administered by the Military Technical Institute that owns only about one tenth of the land. The other structures belong to state institutions as well as private companies and individuals.

Zdenek Hovezak, mayor of the south Moravian municipality of Vlachovice on the territory of which Vrbetice is located, said he welcomes the guarantee of the state.

However, he said he was rather surprised that the state did not invite representatives of the municipalities around Vrbetice to the discussion on the future of the former ammunition dump.

“I heard that the government was going to deal with the issue (Vrbetice) only yesterday,” Hovezak said.

The investigation of the explosions is likely to end in summer and remediation of the large complex will take place afterwards this year, Stropnicky said.

The first explosion in the Vrbetice complex occurred in October 2014, claiming two lives. It was followed by 355 uncontrolled blasts. Another dump exploded in December 2014. Some 2000 people from the surrounding area had to leave their homes during five evacuations.

The police investigate the explosions as a wilful endangering of public safety. A state attorney filed a complaint against five people and two firms over the storing of banned explosives.

Stropnicky said 7000 soldiers took their turns in guarding the Vrbetice complex during 15 months after the blasts. A new fence, over 16 kilometers long, has been built around the complex.

All ammunition has been removed from the area. The last of the 547 lorries filled with ammunition left Vrbetice shortly before last Christmas.

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