September 01, 2018

The Rockets' Red Glare

As a contemporary dancer, Christine Dakin often performs “Deep Song,” a Martha Graham ballet dedicated to the victims of the Spanish Civil War. And every time she hears the piano music for the piece, she recalls the first time she danced the work in public, in Vladivostok in May 1992, while Russia’s Pacific Fleet arsenal was exploding not far away.

There was never an official explanation from the Russian government of what happened. Various internet sources report that a million torpedoes, antisubmarine bombs and heavy artillery ammunition exploded May 14-16, 1992. The total power of the explosions amounted to 50 megatons, the Vladivostok newspaper reported.

The blasts shattered the windows of homes and factories nearby, and the ground shook as if from an earthquake. More than 50,000 of the city’s 700,000 residents were evacuated. Police caught looters, criminals and reckless teenagers who tried to sneak into the closed territory to steal explosives. The names of the dead and wounded have never been released. Decades later, people still find unexploded shells in the ground.

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