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Major fire at army ammunition depot: 16 dead

At least 16 defence personnel, including two Army officers, were today killed 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.

Major fire at army ammunition depot: 16 dead
Loud explosions were heard one after the other as the raging firelit up the night sky

New Delhi

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 (to include one Army jawan and 13 civilian fire fighting staff) lost their lives and two officers and 15 personnel (to include 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 firelit 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.

"Actions to assess the damage are in progress," the DGMO said. The Army had earlier put the casualty at 17 which has now been revised to 16. It had also earlier said the majority of personnel killed were Defence Security Corps jawans.

Following a directive from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was in Pune, rushed to the spot. Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag also visited the site.

Modi tweeted, "Pained by loss of lives caused by a fire at central ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra. My thoughts are with the bereaved families.

"I pray that those who are injured recover quickly. Have asked RM @manoharparrikar to visit the spot & take stock of the situation", he said.

CAD, Pulgaon is located at about 115 Km from Nagpur, in Maharashtra. The depot is spread over an area of more than 7000 acres and is an important ammunition depot of the Indian Army.

Stocks including bombs, grenades, shells, assorted rifles, missiles and other explosives from various factories comes to Pulgaon depot first and is then distributed to various forward areas.

As per initial reports, the fire started in one of the sheds at approximately 1 AM this morning, and immediate action was taken by the fire fighting parties and Quick Reaction Teams located in the depot by putting the fire fighting mechanism into place as per the laid down procedures.

"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 Specialty Hospital, Wardha (35 Km from Pulgaon) and are undergoing medical treatment.

The medical condition of the injured personnel 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.

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