Sixteen people died and 130 tons of ammunition worth over INR 100 crore (US $14 million) was destroyed besides collateral damage after a fire broke out at the Maharastra’s Phulgaon Central Ammunition Depot Tuesday.
The ammunition depot is one of Asia’s biggest and houses the largest stockpile of weapons in India. Stocks including bombs, grenades, shells, assorted rifles, missiles and other explosives from various factories comes here first and is then distributed to various forward areas.
Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said 130 tonnes of anti-tank mines were destroyed in the fire.
Parrikar on Tuesday said there was no sabotage involved in the fire at the central ammunition depot at Pulgaon in the district but the exact cause would be known only after inquiry.
"We are not ruling out any possibility but there is no sabotage as such," he told reporters here. Fire was contained with timely help from all the concerned persons and only a complete inquiry will reveal its cause, Parrikar said.
It is too early to speculate about the cause, he added.
However, the 16 persons who lost their lives while trying to douse it succeeded in saving the ammunition stored in nine other sheds, the minister said.
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.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained and the Army has instituted an inquiry into the incident, Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said.
"Actions to assess the damage are in progress," the DGMO said.
As per initial reports, the fire started in one of the sheds at approximately 0100h 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," Singh said.