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Indian Army asks Defence Ministry to attribute responsibility for fatal Pulgaon ammunition depot blast

03 August 2017

In a letter to the Indian Defence Production Secretary, Army headquarters has asked for a final adjudication on responsibility for the extensive fire at India’s largest ammunition storage depot at Pulgaon in Maharashtra on May 31, 2016. The incident resulted in the deaths of two army officials, four defence security corps personnel and 13 defence fire safety staff.

Image: Youtube
Image: Youtube

According to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report in the Indian Express, the Indian Army has conveyed its serious concerns to the Defence Ministry over the Ordnance Factory Board’s failure to punish officials responsible for the incident, which saw a number of huge explosions and an extensive fire that burned for over 24 hours.

In the letter, seen by PTI, the Army said a Court of Inquiry had attributed the cause of the accident to exudation of highly explosive trinitrotoluene (TNT) from some of the 19,325 anti-tank mines stored at the site. The Court of Inquiry, which was conducted by the Army, attributed the cause of the exudation to lapses both by the manufacturer, the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), and quality assurance agencies.

The OFB operates 41 ordnance factories across the country and functions under the department of defence production of the ministry of defence. The mines were manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Chanda.

The Army said in the letter: “Fixing of accountability and traceability for the said accident is yet to be established by the OFB and the director general of quality assurance (DGQA) even one year after the accident.”

Official sources said there was criminal negligence on the part of certain officials as cited by the probe and sought immediate action against them. The sources said the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) in Pune in 2012 had clearly called the quality of TNT in the anti-tank mines a safety hazard, but the OFB claimed these problems were a world-wide phenomenon.

Other sources said another factor that might have caused TNT to leak from the mine casings was the exceptionally hot weather in the area at the time.

India recorded higher than normal temperatures and drought conditions in many states in 2016. In late May, the country recorded its highest-ever temperature, 51 degrees Celsius, in the western state of Rajasthan. The previous record, also in Rajasthan, was 50.6 degrees in 1886.

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