Maharashtra: 20 killed in fire at Army's biggest ammunition depot

Narendra Modi directs Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to visit Pulgaon to take stock of situation.

Nagpur: At least 20 security personnel, including two Army officers, were killed on Tuesday in a massive fire that broke out at one of Asia's biggest ammunition depot in Maharashtra's Pulgaon that houses the largest stockpile of weapons in the country.

Two officers, including a Lieutenant Colonel, and 15 Defence Security Corp (DSC) jawans were among those killed in the blaze that started around 2 am, an Army officer said.

Also, at least 19 security personnel were injured in the fire that has spread to a number of sheds that houses ammunitions, bombs and other explosive items. Some of them with burn injuries are in a critical condition, he said.

Video footage showed the raging fire lighting up the night sky. The injured were evacuated to the nearby military hospital in helicopters. Hundreds of families of nearby villages have been evacuated, officials said.

"The main fire at one of the sheds has been extinguished. The situation is being stabilised. Secondary fire and explosions is in the process of being controlled," the Army officer said refusing to go into the reasons of the fire.

Several fire engines were pressed into service to douse the fire. Army has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to take stock of the situation.

Read: Modi condoles deaths in fire at army depot, asks Parrikar to take stock

Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed shock and deep anguish at deaths of jawans and officers in the fire.

"Extending her condolences to the family members of the deceased, Smt. Gandhi hoped that the injured were being taken care of and ample efforts were being undertaken to limit and control damage," the party said in a statement.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh too condoled the loss of lives in the accident. “My heart goes out to the families of the officers and jawans who lost their lives in the fire accident at Ammunition depot in Pulgaon,”he tweeted.

“”I pray for the speedy recovery of those who got injured in Pulgaon fire. My condolences to the bereaved families,” he said.

Calling the incident ‘very unfortunate’, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “We have suffered huge loss of lives and property. I have directed district officials to extend whatever help possible,” he added.

The central ammunition depot at Pulgaon is India's biggest ammunition depot as stocks including bombs, grenades, shells, assorted rifles and other explosives from various factories comes here first and is then distributed to various forward areas. Pulgaon is 110 kms from Nagpur.

"I am given to understand that Defence Minister will be visiting the site and this itself is an evidence of how serious and concerned is the Central government. My heart goes out to the families of jawans and officers killed and injured in the incident. The nation stands by them," Minister of State in the PMO Jitender Singh said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle with agency inputs )
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