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Ordnance depot fire near Pak border

Jaipur, June 1: A huge store of ammunition and a number of mines were destroyed in a major fire at an ordnance depot in a village 20 km from the Pakistan border.

There was widespread panic in the army area around Dabarwala technical depot in Sultana village, 70 km from Jaisalmer, as metal and concrete pieces scattered around a 2 km radius from the depot at 9 am. The sky turned brown as a result.

District superintendent of police P. Ramji said fire brigades belonging to the air force, the Border Security Force and civil defence rushed to the spot as soon as the BSF sounded an alarm. It took them nearly four hours to control the fire.

More than 60 per cent of ammunition and mines recently removed from the international border was destroyed in the fire.

Some live mines were also destroyed. No loss of life has been reported.

Army officials said the fire started at one temporary shed and spread to the others. The army has asked villagers to keep away from suspicious-looking objects in the area.

An inquiry has been ordered into the cause of the fire. Technical officers of the army have already begun an investigation.

This is the third major fire in the last two years at an ammunition depot in Rajasthan, which has a long border with Pakistan.

The army is currently de-mining areas along the Pakistan border in Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. About 80 per cent of mines laid during Operation Parakram have been cleared so far.

But of late, the de-mining process has slowed down as the army went in for emergency purchase of specialised de-mining equipment, including shoes and gloves for sappers on duty.

A source said ordnance depots in Rajasthan are vulnerable to fires because of the high temperatures that touch 47 degrees Celsius on occasions.

Concerned at the recurring mishaps in ordnance depots, with as many as 16 reported in the last three years, the defence ministry has embarked on an ambitious Rs 1,400 crore plan to modernise major depots.

Work has already begun on modernisation of two major central ordnance depots.

A teenaged boy died in a mine blast at Gajsinghpura village in Ganganagar district last night while grazing his cattle in the field.

Army officials said they had de-mined the area but it appears that the work was incomplete. The army has ordered an inquiry.

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