17 die in Army ammunition depot fire in Wardha

May 31, 2016

Nagpur: At least 17 army personnel, including two officers, were killed and 17 others injured after a fire broke out at the Central Ammunition Depot in Pulgaon in Wardha district in Maharashtra on Tuesday. It is Asia’s second biggest central ammunition depot, situated 80 km from Nagpur.

"The fire has been completely doused and the situation is now under control. However, in our efforts to douse the fire, two officers and 15 other personnel (including one Army Jawan and 14 civilian firefighting staff) lost their lives and two officers and 15 personnel (including nine jawans and six civilian firefighting staff) were injured in the Central Ammunition Depot fire in Pulgaon," Lt. Gen Ranbir Singh (DGMO) told reporters here.

"The injured personnel have been shifted to Multi Speciality Hospital in Wardha for treatment," he added. He said the fire broke out at 1 O'clock early this morning in one of the sheds, adding that the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.

"Immediate action was taken by the firefighting parties and Quick Reaction Teams located in the depot restricting the fire to one shed only, which contained highly sensitive ammunitions," he added. Asserting that actions to assess the damage are in progress, Lt. Gen Singh said an inquiry has been ordered by the army.

"Defence Minister, Indian Army Chief and senior defence officials have visited the site to take stock of the situation," he said. "We express deep condolences to the families of the bravehearts who have lost their lives while protecting and securing the important ammunition depot," he added.

The Central Ammunition Depot in Pulgaon is located at about 115 km from Nagpur. The depot is spread over an area of more than 7000 acres and is an important ammunition depot of the Indian Army.

Meanwhile, Defence expert Praful Bakshi has demanded a full-fledged inquiry into the Army depot fire, suggesting that it is 'bureaucratic hang-up or red-tapism' which is responsible for leaving the arms and ammunitions in the open. "It is not the first time it has happened. It has happened earlier. And the reason will be established only after a proper code of inquiry," he said.

"Buying ammunition is easy. But its maintenance and replenishments are the parts where you need to put a little more effort and caution. A lot of necessary modifications have not yet been given financial sanctions by the government of India. And that is precisely the reason why the ordnance keeps on suffering," he said.

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