Saturday, January 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

100 Army trucks go up in flames
Ammunition worth crores destroyed

Bikaner, January 11
More than 100 Army trucks, many of them laden with explosives, caught fire and about 1,000 tonnes of ammunition was reduced to ashes in a fire at a temporary ordnance sub-depot in this border district of Rajasthan today, official sources said.

Two civilians were killed and nine were injured in the city when missiles fell on them due to the blaze at Udasar, about 10 km from here. The number of Army casualties was not known.

Official sources said 200 trucks were lined up when the fire broke out, about 10 km from here on the Bikaner-Jaipur road. In New Delhi, the government today ordered a court of inquiry into the fire.

State Principal Home Secretary R.K. Nair said in Jaipur that the cause of the fire was not immediately known. Armymen were not available for comments.

The Army and police had sealed off the area. Civilians and the families of armymen were being moved to safer places. The sound of explosions rocked the area and missile-like objects were reported to have fallen at a few places.

Plumes of smoke could be seen for kilometers. Windows and doors shook even in this district town after the blaze began around 3 p.m.

Mr Nair said the fire erupted from trucks standing at the depot. While ammunition had been packed on some trucks standing there, others were being loaded, he said.

Army trucks have become a regular sight in this belt of Rajasthan ever since India began massing its troops near the border with Pakistan after the terrorist attack on Parliament last month.

Army depot fires in the past have mostly happened in summer months when a lighted bidi is enough to ignite the dry grass in soaring temperatures.

Sources said the trucks that exploded into flames today were lined up behind Sophia School and Akashwani Transmission tower on the Bikaner-Jaipur road.

Fire tenders of the Air Force, district administration and the Railways had been pressed into service. Some of the families of armymen living in the cantonment had been shifted to the Karni Singh Stadium here.

Loud explosions could be heard till this evening and flames leapt high into the sky. Flashes of light could be seen in the evening sky from here.

Ammunition worth several crores of rupees was destroyed in a major fire in the Bharatpur Cantonment in the state in the summer of 2000. Bharatpur is nearly 540 km from Bikaner. A fire had also damaged ammunition worth several crores in Suratgarh ordinance depot in Sriganganagar district of the state last summer.

The police has stopped vehicular movements on all roads around the depot.A missile-type weapon was reported to have fallen in the residential colony Kailash Puri. UNIBack

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