16 killed in major fire at “highly sensitive” ammo depot

NEW DELHI: In what is seen as the worst fire accident at an ammunition depot in a more than a decade, Indian Army today lost two officers, a soldier and 13 civilian fire-fighters at the Pulgaon Central Ammunition Depot, 115-km from Nagpur in Maharashtra. Two more officers, nine other soldiers and six other civilian fire-fighters were injured.
The Central Ammunition Depot, also called CAD in Army parlance, contained “highly sensitive” ammunition, Indian Army Director General Military Operations Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh said in a statement read-out in South Block.
The fire broke out at 1 a.m., but was contained within an hour, another Army officer, who did not want to be identified citing rules, said.
The sensitive ammunition could be land mines or even missiles, he said, adding that the exact nature of the ordnance stored at the only shed that caught fire is yet to be ascertained.
All the injured in the fire were admitted to a multi-speciality hospital at nearby Wardha, 35-km from Pulgaon. They are said to be stable at the time of publication of this report. Army medical teams have been moved from Pune to provide specialist medical attention to the injured.
Pulgaon CAD is spread over an area of over 7,000 acres and is an important ammunition depot of the Indian Army. It stores a variety of ammunition in numerous sheds located within the depot.
“As per initial reports, the fire started in one of the sheds at approximately 1 a.m. today, 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. Ranbir Singh said.
“The fire has been completely doused and situation brought under control. The cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained. Actions to assess the damage are in progress. An inquiry has been ordered by the Army,” he added.
On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s instruction, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Indian Army chief General Dalbir Singh visited the site and reviewed the situation. The Army condoled the death of its personnel and civilians in the accident.

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