2008 Gërdec explosions

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2008 Gërdec explosions
Date15 March 2008
Timenoon (12:05 GMT)
Location Gërdec, Albania
26 dead
350+ injured
Scene of the accident in April 2008 VoraGerdecAlbaniaExplosions.jpg
Scene of the accident in April 2008

At approximately noon local time on Saturday, 15 March 2008, at an ex-military ammunition depot in the village of Gërdec in the Vorë Municipality, Albania (14 kilometers from Tirana, the nation's capital), U.S and Albanian munitions experts were preparing to destroy stockpiles of obsolete ammunition. The methodical destruction of the old ammo was supposed to occur with a series of small, controlled explosions, but a chain of events led to the entire stockpile going up at once. The main explosion, involving more than 400 tons of propellant in containers, destroyed hundreds of houses within a few kilometers from the depot and broke windows in cars on the Tirana-Durrës highway. A large fire caused a series of smaller but powerful explosions that continued until 2 a.m. on Sunday. The explosions could be heard as far away as the Macedonian capital of Skopje, 170 km (110 mi) away. [1]

Gërdec Village in Tirana, Albania

Gërdec is a village in Albania, 11 kilometers north-west of the capital Tirana. It is part of the municipality Vorë. It was the site of the explosions at a military base on 15 March 2008, causing the deaths of more than 27 people and injuring over 100. The event was featured on the Discovery Channel series Destroyed In Seconds.

Vorë Municipality in Tirana, Albania

Vorë is a municipality in Tirana County, central Albania. It was formed at the 2015 local government reform by the merger of the former municipalities Bërxullë, Prezë and Vorë, that became municipal units. The seat of the municipality is the town Vorë. The total population is 25,511, in a total area of 82.72 km2. The population of the former municipality at the 2011 census was 10,901.

Albania country in Southeast Europe

Albania, officially the Republic of Albania, is a country in Southeast Europe on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea. It shares land borders with Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east, Greece to the south and maritime borders with Greece, Montenegro and Italy to the west.


Thousands of artillery shells, most of them un-exploded, littered the area. The blast shattered all the windows of the terminal building at the country's only international airport, and all flights were suspended for some 40 minutes. Some 4,000 inhabitants of the zone were evacuated and offered shelter in state-owned resorts. The Government declared the zone a disaster area. According to subsequent investigations, a privately managed ammo dismantling process was ongoing in the area.[ citation needed ]

Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza international airport serving Albania

Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza, often referred to as the Rinas International Airport, is the main international airport of the Republic of Albania. It serves the city of Tirana, its metropolitan area, and surrounding region in the county of Tirana.

Disaster area

A disaster area is a region or a locale, heavily damaged by either natural, technological or social hazards. Disaster areas affect the population living in the community by dramatic increase in expense, loss of energy, food and services; and finally increase the risk of disease for citizens. An area that has been struck with a natural, technological or sociological hazard that opens the affected area for national or international aid.

Possible causes

Possible causes include: human error during the work such as lighting a cigarette or damaging a fuse, improper storage of the ammunition, employment of untrained workers without the proper technical knowledge, violation of the technical security rules in the area where the destruction of ammunition took place, and sabotage.

Human error has been cited as a primary cause contributing factor in disasters and accidents in industries as diverse as nuclear power, aviation, space exploration, and medicine. Prevention of human error is generally seen as a major contributor to reliability and safety of (complex) systems. Human error is one of the many contributing causes of risk events.

Fuse (explosives) part of a device that initiates function in an explosive, pyrotechnic device or military munition

In an explosive, pyrotechnic device, or military munition, a fuse is the part of the device that initiates function. In common usage, the word fuse is used indiscriminately. However, when being specific, the term fuse describes a simple pyrotechnic initiating device, like the cord on a firecracker whereas the term fuze is sometimes used when referring to a more sophisticated ignition device incorporating mechanical and/or electronic components, such as a proximity fuze for an M107 artillery shell, magnetic or acoustic fuze on a sea mine, spring-loaded grenade fuze, pencil detonator, or anti-handling device.

Sabotage deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity

Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity, effort, or organization through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. One who engages in sabotage is a saboteur. Saboteurs typically try to conceal their identities because of the consequences of their actions.

Although existing technologies were employed and adapted for the operations at Gerdec, the techniques of ammunition disposal being used at the time were, and still are (in 2010), new technologies in this field. An error made by engineers who designed the machinery the demilitarisation company and associates employed on the project used. A fundamental design assumption made early in the design process rendered the basic machinery potentially lethal. Researchers and designers of the ammunition disposal kilns assumed the combustible compounds within the ammunition would burn away at 350 degrees Celsius. Documents available from the US military state, and thermochemical and thermodynamic calculations will verify the combustible compounds within the ammunition being disposed of at Gerdec burn to give out a heat amounting to 4500 degrees Celsius. Such an energy would, without further sufficient and adequate designed machine components, lead to vaporization and explosion of the machines used to dispose of the ammunition dumps.[ citation needed ]

Thermochemistry study of the heat energy associated with chemical reactions and/or physical transformations

Thermochemistry is the study of the heat energy associated with chemical reactions and/or physical transformations. A reaction may release or absorb energy, and a phase change may do the same, such as in melting and boiling. Thermochemistry focuses on these energy changes, particularly on the system's energy exchange with its surroundings. Thermochemistry is useful in predicting reactant and product quantities throughout the course of a given reaction. In combination with entropy determinations, it is also used to predict whether a reaction is spontaneous or non-spontaneous, favorable or unfavorable.

Thermodynamics branch of physics concerned with heat, work, temperature, and thermal or internal energy

Thermodynamics is the branch of physics that deals with heat and temperature, and their relation to energy, work, radiation, and properties of matter. The behavior of these quantities is governed by the four laws of thermodynamics which convey a quantitative description using measurable macroscopic physical quantities, but may be explained in terms of microscopic constituents by statistical mechanics. Thermodynamics applies to a wide variety of topics in science and engineering, especially physical chemistry, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering, but also in fields as complex as meteorology.

Conspiracy theory

Some proponents of conspiracy theories have argued that the explosions might have been an act of sabotage ahead of Albania's entry to NATO few weeks later. However, these claims have not been validated.


The repacking/dismantling of ammunition at the dump was being carried out by an Albanian company that had been subcontracted by Southern Ammunition Company Inc. (SAC) of Loris, South Carolina, a U.S. company. SAC won the contract to destroy ammunition in Albania through industrial dismantling.[ citation needed ]

Loris, South Carolina City in South Carolina, United States

Loris is a city in Horry County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 2,396 at the 2010 census, up from 2,079 in 2000.

SAC was contracted in 2006 by the Albanian Ministry of Defence for the deactivation of 100 million 7.62 mm bullets, 20 million 12.7 mm bullets, and 20 million 14.5 mm bullets. A second contract involved ammunition from 40 mm up to 152 mm.

After signing the contract with the MoD, SAC subcontracted the work to Alb-Demil, an Albanian subcontractor.


Officially, Albanian authorities confirmed 26 deaths in the explosions. Officials report the number of injured people at over 300. [2] According to figures published by the Prime Minister's Office, 2,306 buildings were damaged or destroyed in the explosions. Of these, 318 houses were destroyed completely, 200 buildings were seriously damaged, and 188 buildings were less seriously damaged. [3]

There were 26 victims: Qemal Deliu, Kore Deliu, Liljana Deliu, Jetmir Deliu, Flavio Deliu (3 years old), Hysen Cani, Muhamet Hoxha, Besim Çanga, Roland Alla, Reshit Kruja, Mehmet Hazizi, Bukurie Cani, Arben Hasa, Zilie Kaca, Endri Dvorani, Shefki Cani, Zelije Leti, Ilirjan Malci, Shqipe Hasa, Azem Hamolli, Nafije Laçi, Zylfije Ahmeti, Erison Durda (10 years old), Rajmonda Durda, Jetmir Ballazhi, and Resmie Kranja. [4]

Political consequences and investigation

Memorial in Gerdec for the victims of the tragedy Gerdec memorial (OSCAL19 trip) (cropped).jpg
Memorial in Gërdec for the victims of the tragedy

On 17 March 2008, Mr. Fatmir Mediu, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Albania, resigned from his governmental position. [5]

As part of an investigation by the Albanian General Prosecution Office, authorities issued arrest orders for Mihail Delijorgji (president of the Alb-Demil Company), Ylli Pinari (director of MEICO, a state-controlled enterprise managed by the Ministry of Defence and authorized under Albanian laws to deal with the export and import of military goods), and Dritan Minxholi (an executive director with Alb-Demil).

A special group of prosecutors and investigators from Tirana, along with experts from the Albanian Ministry of Interior, the Tirana State Police, EOD specialists, military engineers and military police were said to be studying the facts of the case and collecting witnesses declarations.[ citation needed ]

The investigation group was expected to publish the names of the officials involved in the tragedy by the beginning of April 2008. The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) accepted a request from the Albanian General Prosecutors Office (GPO) to assist the investigation. [6]

On September 12, 2008, Kosta Trebicka, a whistleblower of the case who had directly accused the son of then Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha of involvement in this case, died under mysterious circumstances on a rural road in southern Albania. [7]

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  1. Powell, Mike. "The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia". International Herald Tribune . Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  2. "Death toll from Albanian dump blast climbs". Usatoday.com. 2008-03-21. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  3. Kulish, Nicholas, "After Munitions Explosion, Albanians Ask Why Danger Was Placed So Near", The New York Times , April 19, 2008, p. 5.
  4. "5 vite nga tragjedia e Gërdecit, ja kronika shtetërore, ligjore, sociale | Agjencia e Lajmeve SOT NEWS". Sot.com.al. 2013-03-15. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  5. "Europe | Albania minister quits over blast". BBC News. 2008-03-18. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  6. "2008 Press Releases | Tirana, Albania - Embassy of the United States". Tirana.usembassy.gov. 2008-04-11. Archived from the original on 2017-01-09. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  7. "Kosta Trebicka dies".

Coordinates: 41°25′04″N19°37′52″E / 41.4178°N 19.6311°E / 41.4178; 19.6311