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Depot fire: Army rules out sabotage
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, August 12
One more person, a civilian labourer, has succumbed to injuries as a result of the fire that broke out yesterday at the Army’s ammunition depot at Khundru even as an Army spokesperson ruled out sabotage by militants.

Defence spokesman Lt Col A K Mathur said here this evening that of the 18 injured, 10 have been discharged after treatment another six to eight fatal casualties are expected. Due to the nature of the accident it is still not possible to ascertain exact details of casualties, which would become clearer as the rescue and clearance operations unfold, he added.

An accidental fire is the most likely cause of the accident, while subsequent enquiries would determine the exact cause of the blaze; militant action or sabotage is categorically ruled out, Defence spokesman stated here this evening. “Our fool proof safety measures within the ammunition depot and the physical sanitization of the area around preclude the possibility of any such action. The statements made yesterday by militant organisation are therefore an obvious attempt at self aggrandizement and publicity-stunt,” he added.

A well-coordinated plan to clear the area of debris and unexploded devices is underway. Bomb disposal teams are being airlifted from other commands deployed to clear roads and habitation at the earliest. The other areas would be cleared thereafter joint patrols with civil administration are being conducted to locate unexploded devices.

Meanwhile, the civilian population has been advised not to enter the affected area without getting clearance from the Army authorities, and have also been told not to touch or pick up any suspicious object lying unattended.

Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad accompanied by two ministers, chief secretary C.Phunsong, DGP Kuldeep Khuda and other senior officers conducted an aerial survey of the villages affected by yesterday’s explosions. The situation was later reviewed at a high-level meeting with senior officers of civil administration, Army and the police at the Khanabal Army camp. Major-Gen S. K. Bharadwaj briefing the Chief Minister about the incident said people who had been evacuated from the adjacent villages should not return to their homes till these areas were cleared of unexploded ammunition that had flown from the depot following the fire incident.

The Chief Minister asked the administration to set up at least 20 camps for the evacuated population with adequate arrangements for shelter, food, water and medicines.

The Chief Minister appealed to the evacuated people not to rush back to their homes until the experts declared their villages free from any danger. He said the government had made adequate arrangements for their stay in temporary camps and they need not put their lives in danger by hasty return to their homes.

Five camps established at Larnoo, Chaturgul, Udrosu, Shangus and Mattan for evacuees of 13 adjoining villages of Khundroo are being provided adequate suppliers, an official spokesman here said.

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