At least 17 defence personnel including two officers were killed and several others were injured in explosions triggered by an overnight fire in one of India’s biggest ammunition depot in Maharashtra’s Wardha district, officials said.
Television footage showed massive flames lighting up the night sky at Pulgaon where the central ammunition depot is located. Pulgaon is around 110 km from Nagpur.
Eyewitnesses said there were multiple explosions after the blaze caused by yet-to-be-ascertained reasons at around 1.30 am.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones.
The dead and injured jawans belong to the Defence Security Corp (DSC) that guards strategic defence installations.
Sources said residents of nearby villages have been evacuated and Army helicopters pressed into service to help in the evacuation of the injured security personnel.
“The main fire at one of the sheds has been extinguished. The situation is being stabilised. Secondary fire and explosions cannot be ruled out now,” the Army officer said refusing to go into the reasons of the fire.
Army has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
AFP quoted the Wardha superintendent of police Smita Patil as saying that the nineteen jawans injured are out of danger.
Firefighters using ten fire engines worked through the night to contain the blaze, Ramesh Barde, a fire officer with the Nagpur fire department, told AFP.
“The fire was brought under control by 6.15 am. The situation is under control and a report is being prepared,” he added, speaking from the scene.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh have rushed to spot.