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Explosion at Russian centre 'housing deadly viruses'

A gas explosion caused a fire at a Russian research centre which is reported to hold one of the world’s largest collections of deadly viruses – including Ebola, HIV and smallpox.

Anthrax and different strains of hepatitis are also reported to be housed at the State Scientific Center for Virology and Biotechnology, known as Vector , in the town of Koltsovo in southwestern Siberia.

Nikolai Krasnikov, the mayor of the town, told Russia’s Tass news agency that the blast did not pose any threat to those in the surrounding area.

Mr Krasnikov added that one person, whose gender or age has not been reported, was taken to hospital after suffering burns to their “lower extremities”.

The victim was in intensive care on Monday, Tass reported.

Vector said in a statement on its website that the gas cylinder exploded on “the fifth floor of a six-storey concrete laboratory building” where a “sanitary inspection room is being repaired”.

Their statement adds that “no work with biological material” was being carried out and “building structures were not damaged”.

The fire was extinguished after 13 fire engines and 38 firefighters were called to the scene, Russia Today reported.

Russia’s Interfax news agency states that the research centre has “one of the most comprehensive collections of viruses in the world”, which includes Ebola.

Smallpox, HIV, hepatitis strains and anthrax are among the other viruses housed in the high-security complex, according to Russia Today.

Vector is also reported to be one of only two places in the world where the smallpox virus survives, with the other said to be the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The centre in Russia was said to have served as a biological weapons facility in the Soviet Union.

A scientist died there in 2004 after accidentally jabbing herself with a needle laced with Ebola, the New York Times reported.

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