By Ahmad Adil
NEW DELHI (AA) - More than a dozen military personnel were killed when a fire tore through an army ammunition depot in the Indian state of Maharashtra early Tuesday, according to local officials.
Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh, the Indian army’s director-general of military operations, told reporters at a subsequent press conference that 16 army personnel -- including two officers -- had lost their lives to the blaze while another 17 had been injured.
Officials say that the fire -- the cause of which remains unknown -- broke out inside the Central Ammunition Depot of Maharashtra’s Wardha district.
Shailesh Naval, a senior administration official in the Wardha district, said local residents living near the depot had been evacuated in the wake of the fire but had since returned to their homes.
The incident, he said, had occurred at around 1:30am Tuesday morning.
"The situation is now under control," Naval told Anadolu Agency by phone.
The army has since ordered an enquiry to determine the exact cause of the conflagration.
According to officials, the depot in Wardha is the country’s largest ammunition storage facility.
Following the fire, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "I pray that those who are injured recover quickly. [I] Have asked [Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar] to visit the spot & take stock of the situation."
Mumbai-based security analyst Sameer Patil told Anadolu Agency that Tuesday’s fire "raises questions on safety practices in the Indian army, but we have to wait for [results of] the investigation to know the exact cause".