Army depot fire kills 16

Cause of blaze in Maharashtra facility unknown

Army depot fire kills 16

At least 16 people, including two Army officers, were on Tuesday killed in a massive fire at one of Asia’s biggest ammunition depots in Maharashtra’s Pulgaon. The depot houses the largest stockpile of weapons in the country.

 
The fire, which started at 1 am at one of the sheds that housed “highly sensitive ammunition” in the high security central ammunition depot (CAD), spread over 7,000 acres, has been completely doused and the situation brought under control after an overnight operation.

“However, in efforts to douse the fire, two officers and 14 personnel (including one Army jawan and 13 civilian fire fighting staff) lost their lives and two officers and 15 personnel (including nine Army jawans and six civilian fire fighting staff) were injured,” Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Ranbir Singh told reporters in New Delhi.

Loud explosions were heard one after the other as the raging fire lit up the night sky.

The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained and the Army has instituted an inquiry into the incident, Singh said.

The Army had earlier put the toll at 17 which has now been revised to 16. It had also earlier said the majority of personnel killed were Defence Security Corps jawans.

The intensity of blasts was so high that it shook houses. The window panes and tiled-roofs of houses in the villages were shattered and residents felt as if they were being rattled by an earthquake and many ran out in panic.

They said they saw flames raging at the site of the mishap with smoke billowing.Pravin Savarkar, who ran to safety with his wife and aged mother, told PTI that the intensity of the fire and blast was such that utensils in their house were thrown off the shelves.

CAD, Pulgaon is located at about 115 km from Nagpur. The depot is an important ammunition depot of the Indian Army. Stocks including bombs, grenades, shells, assorted rifles, missiles and other explosives from various factories come here first and then distributed to various forward areas.

 Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was in Pune, rushed to the spot. Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag also visited the site.

“This restricted the fire to one shed only which contained highly sensitive ammunition,” Lt Gen Singh said.

The injured personnel have been evacuated to Multi Speciality Hospital, Wardha (35 km from Pulgaon) and are undergoing medical treatment.

The condition of the injured is reported to be stable, the DGMO said, adding Army medical teams have been moved from Pune to provide specialist medical attention.

He expressed “deep condolences” to the families of the “brave hearts who have lost their lives while protecting and securing the important ammunition depot”.

Similar incidents had also occurred in 1989 and 1995, but no loss of life was reported though ammunition worth crores of rupees was then destroyed.

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