A waste treatment center caught fire on Tallinn's Suur-Sõjamäe tänav, late on Tuesday afternoon. Several adjacent buildings were also set alight due to the intensity of the blaze. The operation to extinguish the fire went on through the night and will continue on Wednesday.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Estonian Rescue Board (Päästeamet), reported that Suur-Sõjamäe tänav was still partially closed between the junctions with Roosivälja tee and Smuuli tänav due to the ongoing work to extinguish the fire.
"People who work in this area and whose workplaces are located in the safety zone can get to work. Other road users are asked to avoid this area if possible and to choose alternative routes for their journeys," the Rescue Department said.
Police officers will be on these stretches of road on Wednesday to direct road users to streets, along which it is safe to travel.
Pollution cloud moves towards Lasnamäe
Tests conducted showed that while hazardous substances were still spreading in the Assaku and Peetri areas at around 12.15 a.m., by 2 a.m. on Wednesday, there was no air pollution in either of those two areas. With the change in wind direction, pollution was also detected near Lake Ülemiste. However, according to a report received at 2.38 a.m. there was no longer any pollution in the Ülemiste area. Reports also showed that Luige and Kangru remained unaffected by pollution from the fire.
At 3.06 a.m. smoke from the fire began to spread towards Lasnamäe. Tests conducted in the areas of Betooni tänav, Raadiku tänav, Ümera tänav and Mustakivi tänav, revealed that hazardous substances were detected in the air. An EE ALARM message was sent out to residents in the Lasnamäe area asking them to keep windows and doors closed, switch off ventilation and avoid being outdoors.
"This situation could last all day today. If people want to go to work or to school, they can do so, but it is advisable to avoid staying outdoors for long periods," Pavel Kulikov, spokesperson for the Northern Rescue Centre, told ERR radio on Wednesday morning.
According to the Estonian Rescue Board (Päästeamet), at 17.49 a fire was reported at the waste treatment plant on Tallinn's Suur-Sõjamäe tänav and that people were being evacuated from the area. No casualties have been reported.
The Rescue Board said, that a cloud of toxic smoke was spreading from the fire and advised all those living within a three kilometer radius of the incident, particularly residents of Suur-Sõjamäe, Peetri and Lasnamäe, to keep their doors and windows closed and avoid traveling in the area.
At that time, the Rescue Board also added, that work to control the fire was underway with efforts also been made to protect the adjacent buildings.
Pavel Kulikov, spokesperson for the Northern Rescue Center (Põhja päästekeskus), told ERR that hazardous waste is burning at the site.
Rescue Board chief Erkki Põld told ETV show "Aktuaalne kaamera" that both a packaging center and a hazardous waste center were on fire. "Hazardous materials are burning, there have been quite a few explosions at the scene and the fire is spreading fast," Põld said at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday, adding that several buildings had already caught fire.
Põld added that heating oil and batteries were among the materials burning in the fire.
According to Põld, the fire is very intense and may even continue to burn until Wednesday.
The Rescue Board later reported that a mixture of liquid fuel and water used to extinguish the fire has flowed into a storm ditch on Kanali tee as a result of fuel tank explosions at the location in question. Rescue Board workers are working together with Tallinn Vesi's emergency team to contain and clean up the spill.
At 9 p.m., Põld said that the Rescue Board had conducted assessments of the scene and in the Peetri area and that there is no immediate danger to the public. However, he reiterated, that people should keep their windows closed, as soot produced by the fire could also land in the Peetri area.
An EE-ALARM message was sent out to people in the area with instructions on the best course of action to take in order to remain safe.
Travel in the area is still subject to disruption, with Suur-Sõjamäe tänav partially closed and police on the scene regulating the movement of traffic.
Tallinn Airport spokesperson Margit Holts had previously told ERR, that air traffic has not yet been affected by the smoke. However, by 9 p.m., the direction of the wind had changed, with Põld adding that flights in and out of Tallinn Airport were only operating from the direction of Lake Ülemiste for the time being.
Reports suggest the smoke cloud was also visible from the center of Tallinn and as far away as Saue.
Editor: Michael Cole