A major fire broke out at the central ammunition depot (CAD) at Pulgaon in Maharashtra early on Tuesday, killing at least 20 personnel, including 18 Defence Security Corps jawans and two officers, and injuring 19 others (See: Blaze at ammo depot in Maharashtra kills at least 20). The fire, at the depot in Wardha district is now said to be limited to a small area and several surrounding villages have been evacuated and Army Chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag has ordered a Court of Inquiry.
Reports said although the fire is confined to a limited area, "secondary fire and explosions cannot be ruled out now".
Television footage showed massive flames lighting up the night sky at Pulgaon where the central ammunition depot is located. The blaze triggered multiple explosions, rocking houses in the area and forcing the evacuation of more than 1,000 people.
Two among the 20 dead were identified as Lt Col RS Pawar and Major K Manoj. The dead and injured soldiers belonged to the Defence Security Corps (DSC) that guards strategic defence installations.
The arms depot at Pulgaon, located 110 km away from Nagpur, is the nodal depot from which stocks from various ordnance factories are distributed to various other depots in the Western Sector, making it the country's largest and biggest weapons stockpile.
The fire is reported to be under control although the full extent of damage to the depot is yet to be ascertained.
The depot, besides storing ammunition reserves, is also involved in disposing dead or dated ammunition. This is usually done in open spaces where demolition explosives are employed, as accidents are common.
Apart from the CAD in Pulgaon, there are 14 other arms depots located in different parts of the country, as per a defence ministry report.
The depot, which is also Asia's second largest ammunition centre, according to a report in NDTV, has the highest level of security.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis directed district officials to extend whatever help possible. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked defence minister Manohar Parrikar to take stock of the situation in Pulgaon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief over the loss of lives caused by a fire at Central Ammunition Depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra.
''Pained by loss of lives caused by a fire at central ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra. My thoughts are with the bereaved families.
"I pray that those who are injured recover quickly. Have asked RM @manoharparrikar to visit the spot & take stock of the situation'', the Prime Minister tweeted.
Vice president Hamid M Ansari expressed grief over the loss of lives in Central Ammunition Depot fire, today.
''I am deeply grieved to learn about the loss of life in the fire at the central ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra.
I convey my heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved families and pray to the Almighty to give them strength and fortitude to withstand this immense loss. I also wish speedy recovery to the injured.''