What is it about EV batteries? Blast at customs warehouse felt 20 miles away; 163 injured

by WorldTribune Staff, September 28, 2023

A 15-year-old boy was killed and 163 people were injured in a massive explosion in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Thursday which reports say was triggered by detonating electric car batteries.

More than 20 people had to be hospitalized, the Uzbek health ministry said. At least five children suffered wounds from shattered glass as the explosion was heard 20 miles away.

The Tashkent explosion was heard 20 miles away. / East2West

The Uzbek Interior Ministry was initially reported as saying “lightning struck a warehouse where electric cars and batteries were stored, causing a massive explosion and fire in Tashkent.”

Later there were doubts that lightning had been a factor in the explosion.

Batteries for electric cars exploded at the airport warehouse, causing the destruction of the building in the shock wave, the Mash media outlet reported.

The powerful blast, which occurred around 3 a.m. in the Sergeli district of the Uzbek capital, sent shock waves throughout the city and was followed by a massive fire.

The Emergency Situations Ministry of Uzbekistan said in a statement: “Sixteen fire crews and three ladder trucks were sent to the scene of the explosion. They arrived at 2:48 a.m. and began extinguishing the fire and eliminating the consequences.”

The Defense Ministry said that some 1,000 Uzbek troops were involved in dealing with the aftermath of the explosion.

Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology said that fires in electric vehicle (EV) batteries burn unseen. Firefighters can squelch the visible flames in an EV fire, but chemicals inside the battery continue to burn because firefighters cannot reach the source.

“EV battery fires start with an uncontrolled chemical reaction inside the battery that releases a huge amount of heat and continues until the reaction has completed,” says Dr. Guang Xu, associate professor of mining engineering at the university. “Also, a chemical fire releases more toxic gases than a gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle fire.”

In 2021, “workers at a mine in the U.S. had to flee an EV fire,” Xu said. “Everyone escaped safely, but the mine had to close for a week at great economic cost.”

The researchers said the EV fire risk transcends mining to city bus fleets, ships that carry EVs, airports and parking garages.

With a population of 35 million, Uzbekistan is the most populous of the central Asian former Soviet republics.

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