Fire in ammunition dump near Pathankot

CHANDIGARH, APRIL 29. A huge fire broke out in the ammunition dump of the Army's Mamoon Cantonment near Pathankot in Gurdaspur district late tonight. Major panic has been reported in the border township.

The incident comes almost exactly a year after the fire at the Army's Bharatpur ammunition depot in Rajasthan.

Though officials from the Army, police and district administration have rushed to the spot, it could not be confirmed whether there was any casualty. The police control room in Pathankot, which is about five kilometres from the spot, while confirming the huge fire expressed inability to identify the cause of the fire. However, it was confirmed that the area had been cordoned off and sealed. Fire-tenders from Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur have been requisitioned.

(According to a UNI report from Gurdaspur, at least 400 hundred explosions were heard near the dump site on Mission Road on the outskirts of the town. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr. B. Vikaran, has left for Pathankot town. Huge flames have been raging at the dump site. Army sources in New Delhi told PTI that the fire broke out at around 10 p.m. at the depot which stores ammunition for mechanised vehicles. )

According to witnesses from Pathankot, who talked to The Hindu over phone, the fire was noticed late in the evening when explosions were heard. Soon, panic gripped the area as civilians residing in nearby localities began to flee when live ammunition went off.

One witness said he saw up to 15-metre-high flames and heard loud explosions. ``First we thought that war had broken out with Pakistan or some fierce encounter was on between the security forces and the terrorists near the town. But then we saw people rushing from the cantonment side towards Pathankot.''

A senior officer of the State Government, confirmed the fire but did not rule out sabotage as Pathankot was strategically placed near the International Border with Pakistan. Pathankot also provides the land passage to the violence-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir. Security forces there are provided ammunition from the Mamoon dump.

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