An unmanned Russian rocket carrying three navigation satellites has crashed shortly after lift-off from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch base in Kazakhstan, Russian media reported. There were no reported injuries.
State-run Rossiya-24 television showed footage of the Proton-M booster rocket veering off course seconds after lift-off. It fell apart in flames in the air and crashed in a big ball of fire near the launch pad.
Personnel who were in bunkers at the site when the rocket lifted off survived, the Interfax news agency reported, citing an unnamed source.
Interfax said Kazakh emergency authorities were considering evacuating nearby towns in the sparsely populated area because of the potential health threat from toxic rocket fuel burning at the crash site.
The estimated loss from the three satellites, meant for Russia’s troubled Glonass satellite navigation system, was about $200m (£130m), Rossiya-24 reported.
The state-run RIA news agency said the cause might have been a problem with the engine or the guidance system.