The explosion at the plant

History 05/01/20 Explosion at the plant “Nitrogen”: the worst chemical disaster in the Soviet Union

in the Spring of 1989 in the Lithuanian city of Jonava was one of the largest technogenic disasters in the history of the USSR – leakage of several thousand tons of toxic substances. Baltic nationalists used this excuse to blame “Russian invaders” in the intentional poisoning of nature. In fact, the damage from the disaster could be less, if not for the differences between Russians and Lithuanians.

Toxic fog

Moscow – a small town located in the heart of Lithuania. In 1962, on its Eastern edge was built a plant producing nitrogen fertilizer from natural gas, which worked well for 27 years.

at About noon on 20 March 1989, the company explosion. In the lid of the tank with liquid ammonia, a hole (cavity) – perhaps the defect has arisen from the casting, maybe it was the result of “fatigue” of metal. Anyway, 7,500 tons of chemicals, chilled to minus 340 degrees Celsius, spilled out. Loose from the bottom tank weighing several tons fell away and hit the pipeline, which received natural gas.

the warehouse was on fire. During the combustion of thousands of tonnes of nitrophoska formed a toxic cloud, consisting of chlorine, hydrochloric acid and nitrous oxide. By the evening of August 20, the service of civil defense evacuated about 50 thousand inhabitants of Jonava and the surrounding area, and the few remaining were supplied with gas masks. After a while the wind carried the fumes to the North and East – in the direction of the town ukmergė, kėdainiai and Sirvintos.

March 21, the size of toxic clouds approached the Kėdainiai was 50 kilometers long and seven kilometers wide. The maximum concentration of ammonium, exceeds a rate of 150 times, was recorded in the village of Upninkai Yanovskogo district. Meanwhile, more than 800 fire shed burning nitrophoska with the help of pumping stations. This work lasted for 4 days, a significant aid in extinguishing the fire had troops of the Baltic military district.


Yanovskaya disaster was unprecedented chemical spill. The Soviet authorities admitted the incident first official fact “chemical contamination.” After the recent Chernobyl information is not concealed, however, the topic in the press all tried not to exaggerate, and amid the tumultuous events of the Restructuring outside of Lithuania it is quickly forgotten.

From the ammonia poisoning in the first minutes after the explosion killed 5 people – they were the ones who contrary to instructions was not gas masks. Workers fled from the shops literally knee-deep in the icy ammonia. Affected a total of 57 employees, 29 of them from inhaling toxic gases were disabled. Many have developed respiratory and heart disease.

One of the hospitalized officers “Nitrogen” died in the hospital, and on March 21 at the warehouse killed a firefighter. In addition, the farms in the contaminated area dead calves and pigs. Meanwhile, according to experts, if not good luck and competent personnel actions, the number of victims could reach several thousand people. The population of Jonava survived mainly due to the fact that the weather was windless. In the center of the city in a toxic cloud almost did not spread.

Chief specialist of the Center for strategic research of EMERCOM of Russia Vladlen Malyshev, in an interview with the media praised the actions of the duty Manager, who organized the evacuation and delivery of injured to hospital. But national friction, torn Republic, have played a rather negative role. When the Manager of the plant in Russian language, tried to convey information to emergency services, the Lithuanian telephonist for some strange reason refused to connect him with the authorities. So the Manager had to submit to the civil defense headquarters “circuitous route” through the local draft Board.

If not for the 25 minute delay, for liquidation of consequences of ecological disasters could start earlier. Add that chemical plant in Jonava works to this day.

Timur Sagdiyev

© Russian Seven

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