17 army men dead in fire at one of India's biggest ammo depots

Nagpur: At least 17 security personnel, including two Army officers, were on Tuesday 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.

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. 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.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said there has been 'large scale destruction' of lives and what was kept in the ammunition depot.

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

Narendra Modi asked Defence Minister to visit the central ammunition depot in Maharashtra's Pulgaon to take stock of the situation after a major fire killed at least 17 security personnel, including two Army officers, there.

Modi also expressed pain over the loss of lives caused by the fire and prayed for quick recovery of the injured. "

Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has condoled the death of Army personnel in the fire at the depot.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis termed as 'very unfortunate'

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