A Russian rocket has been filmed breaking apart in mid-air and exploding into a fireball in a failed launch in Kazakhstan that was broadcast live on Russian TV.
The footage shows the unmanned Proton-M rocket veer to the side before plummeting back down to Earth and exploding over the Russian Baikonur launch facility.
Local media outlet RT News reported that up to 500 tonnes of poisonous rocket fuel may have been leaked in the crash and tainted the surrounding area.
The emergency ministry of Kazakhstan has warned leaked fuel could pose an ecological threat to the crash site.
The area around the crash site has been evacuated due to toxic smoke from burning fuel but no casualties were reported and the town of Baikonur was not affected.
Experts say the crash was likely caused by engine failure.
A witness working at the cosmodrome launch facility said the rocket was out of control from the moment it took off.
“In line with its program, once a malfunction was detected, the rocket boosted to take itself away from the launch pad and fell about one kilometer from it,” the source told RT News.
The rocket had been attempting to launch three satellites for Russia’s global navigation satellite system, Glonass.