Pulgaon: The intensity of fire at the ammunition depot in Maharashtra's Pulgaon that left 16 security personnel dead and several others injured on Tuesday was so high that people in the villages around were woken up to a loud noise with their houses shaking.
The window panes and tiled-roofs of houses in the villages were shattered and the residents felt as if they were being rattled by an earthquake and many ran out in panic.
They said they saw flames raging at the site of the mishap with smoke billowing to the skies.
Pravin Savarkar, who along with his wife and aged mother ran to safety, told PTI that the intensity of the fire and blast was such that utensils in their house were thrown off the shelves.
Some of the villagers, particularly the elderly residents, calmed others as they could guess what was happening as similar incidents had taken place at the depot earlier also.
Today's was the third major incident in the Central Ammunition Depot in Pulgaon, one of Asia's biggest ammunition storehouses.
Similar incidents had also occurred in 1989 and 1995, but no loss of life was reported though ammunition worth crores of rupees were then destroyed.
The fire at the ammunition depot, situated between hillocks on either side, came as a shock to the residents of Agargaon, Pipri, Nachangaon and Magejhari villages.
Magejhari is the closest village to the depot with a population of 1,500 people, Nachangaon has about 2,500 residents, Agargan - 3,500 and Pipri has a population of 800.
A youth, who lives in the the depot quarters, said as soon as the fire occurred, most of the villagers ran out of their houses and spent time till dawn in great anxiety.
The district administration, police and fire brigade personnel reached the site within a short time.
But the fire and the blast in the stores were so huge that it damaged two four-wheelers and a fire brigade vehicle inside the complex.
Inspector General of Police, Nagpur Range, Ravindra Kadam also rushed to the ammunition depot, but he and his subordinates were not allowed to enter the complex.
Kadam later visited the injured personnel at Sawangi Meghe hospital where they were being treated.
He said that the toll may go up from 16.
The deceased include two Army officers - Major M Manoj, who is Chief Security Officer with the ammunition depot and Colonel Randheer Pawar from Kolhapur, sources said.