The death toll in the Pulgaon fire mishap on Wednesday rose to 18 as two more bodies were recovered from the site, according to a PTI report. While the two bodies recovered are yet to be identified, the rescue teams are still looking for one missing person.
The massive fire that broke out in the early hours of Tuesday morning, at the central ammunition depot, the largest stockpile of ammunition in the country, in Pulgaon, Wardha district was finally doused at 4 pm on Tuesday afternoon.
One of the sheds that housed "highly sensitive" ammunition in the high security central ammunition depot (CAD), spread over 7,000 acres, was the first to catch fire. Once ablaze, loud explosions followed as the fire raged.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a statement said there was no sabotage involved, but the exact cause could be known only after the enquiry.
The army was quick to take charge. The nearby villages were evacuated and army helicopters were sent in service to help in evacuation of the injured personnel according to an Indian Express report.
"In our efforts to douse the fire, two officers and 14 personnel, including one jawan and 13 civilian firefighting staff, lost their lives, while two officers and 15 personnel, including nine jawans and six civilian firefighting staff, were injured. A court of inquiry has been ordered by the army," the Ministry of Defence stated in a press release.
The Pulgaon explosion, indicates that the authorities have not paid heed to the findings of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) audit report on 'Ammunition Management in the Army', submitted last year, reports Pune Mirror.
The report had raised questions over safety measures followed at the ammunition depots, stating that "The depots were functioning with risk of fire accidents, as the firefighting equipment were not as per equirement/authorisation".
Lt Gen Ashok Joshi, explosives expert said "Something has gone abnormally wrong at CAD, Pulgaon. It is a well-organised depot and every material is kept separately. Atmospheric temperature alone cannot be the reason behind the fire."
Along with launching an inquiry, the army has also sent a medical team comprising a neurologist, anaesthetist and forensic experts from the Southern Command to Pulgaon, reports The Indian Express.
With inputs from PTI.