Over 300 cars burnt as massive fire engulfs Aero India

Over 300 cars burnt as massive fire engulfs Aero India

Aerial shot by the pilot flying over the parking lot at Gate-5 where over 300 cars were burnt to ashes at Aero India 2019, Bengaluru. (Pic Courtesy: Officer Commanding - HQ, Civil Defence)

Over 300 cars were burnt in a massive fire that broke out at the parking lot near Gate 5 outside the Aero India 2019 venue, triggering fear and panic at the Yelahanka Air Base here on Saturday morning.

Dry grass fire aided by heavy winds has been cited as a possible cause. Rakesh, a fire-fighter from Channapatna fire station suffered minor burns. Initial reports had pegged the number of cars burnt at 500.

Thick smoke that billowed out of the parking area engulfed the entire sky near the airshow’s flight display area, sparking fear among thousands of visitors. Aerial displays were halted as the huge plume of smoke continued to spread.

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Fire-fighter Rakesh, deployed as part of the airshow security cover, was one of the first to reach the spot. He was injured by glass shards from one of the damaged cars. Director General of Police, Fire and Emergency Services, M N Reddi said the grass fire had spread to the parking area 5, eventually gutting over 300 vehicles parked in close proximity to one another.

As the fire spread to the cars, blasts were heard repeatedly. Bursting tyres, broken glasses, thick smoke billowing, gave the entire area a bombed-out look. People who were standing near the parking lot ran helter-skelter, fearing for their safety, recalled eyewitnesses. 

What exactly caused the fire is yet to be confirmed, but it is learnt that an unidentified person threw a lit cigarette into the dry grass, sparking the massive inferno. Ten fire tenders that rushed to the spot, took nearly an hour to douse the fire. Reddi said the fire spread was controlled by creating a gap by removing adjacent cars. 

About three kilometres away, inside the Yelahanka Air Station, the fire was first thought to be caused by garbage-burning. Fears were also raised about an air crash, although no flight was seen anywhere near its vicinity. 

Inconsolable

People whose cars were burnt were inconsolable. Said one of them, Lokesh: “I just parked my car and was walking towards the bus to reach the exhibition centre when I suddenly saw the fire. My car was also parked there. I got scared and quickly informed the police around.” 

Deepak S, another visitor who lost his car, said: “The police are asking us to claim insurance. It has been just eight months since I bought my car.” A few men at the spot saved more than 70 cars by quickly parking away from the spreading fire. 

High drama has dominated this edition of the Aero India. A day before the airshow began, two Hawks attached to the Surya Kiran aerobatic team had collided mid-air and crashed, killing one pilot, Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi.