Explosion rocks Soviet-era laboratory housing smallpox and Ebola samples

PHOTO: An electron micrograph of a vaccinia virus that is used in the vaccine to protect people from the smallpox virus.PlayUniversal Images Group via Getty
WATCH News headlines today: Oct. 23, 2019

A gas explosion shook a Soviet-era biological weapons lab in Siberia that houses samples of Ebola and smallpox on Monday.

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At least one employee was injured in the explosion or ensuing fire.

Vector, the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in the town of Koltsovo near Novosibirsk, announced an exploding gas tank caused the fire.

The blast happened during repairs in an inspection room on the fifth floor of six-floor concrete building, according to a statement from Vector.

"No work with biological materials was carried out in the building," the statement said. "One worker suffered injuries."

A spokesperson for Vector told ABC News: "There is no danger to life. There is no biological catastrophe. We are working in regular mode."

Vector is one of two known locations that houses live samples of the smallpox virus. The other is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Founded in 1974, Vector is one of the world's largest research centers. In Soviet times, researchers at the lab studied potential plagues including anthrax and tularaemia to learn more about creating biological weapons. Vector now develops tools for diagnosing and treating infectious diseases, specializing work on vaccines for swine flu, HIV and Ebola.

PHOTO: An electron micrograph of a vaccinia virus that is used in the vaccine to protect people from the smallpox virus. Universal Images Group via Getty
An electron micrograph of a vaccinia virus that is used in the vaccine to protect people from the smallpox virus.

Vector earlier this year completed trials of an Ebola vaccine that's reportedly ready for implimentation.

In 2004, a scientist working at Vector died after accidentally sticking herself with a needle laced with Ebola. Scientists and officials said the accident raised concerns about safety at the research center.

A 2016 World Health Organization inspection said Vector met biosafety and biosecurity standards and did not have any concerns relating to security.