Nagpur, June 1 (IANS) The toll in Tuesday’s massive fire and explosion at India’s largest ammunition depot in Pulgaon, in Maharashtra’s Wardha district, climbed to 18 with the bodies of two more persons recovered early Wednesday. One person is reported missing in the tragedy, sources said.
The bodies of the two persons — whose identities have yet to be established — were found in a nearby water tank where they were apparently thrown by the blast impact.
Work on clearing up the debris and assessment of damage to the defence assets continued on Wednesday.
The cause of fire, accompanied by a deafening blast — which locals claimed was heard over 10 km away and damaged several homes and buildings in surrounding villages — is being investigated.
On Tuesday, the Director-General of Military Operations, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, had said 16 persons lost their lives in the disaster, including Lt. Col. R.S. Pawar and Major Mohan K., besides one soldier and 13 civilian firemen.
Another 17 injured are undergoing treatment at the Multi-Speciality Hospital in Wardha where a team of army doctors from Pune has reached.
Eyewitnesses and military officials said loud explosions followed a massive fireball at one of the sheds at the depot where ammunition with expired shelf life is also disposed of.
The depot recently won an award for using solar energy to dispose off expired ammunition.
As a precautionary measure, the army and civil administration had evacuated five nearby villages amid deafening explosions and rising flames at the depot.
However, some 1,000 men, women and children from these villages were permitted to return home by Tuesday afternoon.
The army has ordered a probe into the incident and the extent of damage or losses to defence assets is being ascertained.