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Blaze in Kashmir ammunition depot

Srinagar, August 11, 2007:

A huge fire broke out at a major ammunition depot of Indian Army in Indian administered Kashmir Saturday morning, injuring scores of people.

Officials said the depot and the adjoining civilian areas have been evacuated. The fire also spread to the adjoining forest area.

Massive explosions went off at Khundroo ammunition depot in Anantnag district of south Kashmir Saturday morning leading to a blaze.

The depot located inside a highly guarded camp is the biggest in Kashmir valley.

“We were arriving at the depot this morning when we heard loud explosions, and saw troopers fleeing,” Bashir Ahmad a civilian carpenter working at the depot said.

Explosions could be heard miles away in Achabal till late afternoon, as firefighters struggled to douse the huge fire.

People from scores of adjoining villages abandoned their houses and fled to safer places. Thousands of people gathered in the Eidgah ground in Anantnag.

The number of causalities was unclear as the Army was silent on the toll of causalities. The injured troopers were removed to Army hospitals.

Civilians and firefighting personnel were also injured by the blasts which also damaged houses in the vicinity of the depot.

“We were thrown away by an explosion as we tried to get closer to douse the fire,” an injured firefighter Mohammad Yousuf Ganai said. Ganai posted in the fire service unit inside the depot was shifted to District hospital Anantnag in an unconscious state along with three more firefighters.

Authorities said efforts were on to control the blaze while the government ordered evacuation of people from a five kilometer radius.

"Massive efforts are continuing to control the blaze," defence spokesman Lt Col AK Mathur said. Mathur also denied sabotage as the cause of blasts.

“It is an accident, not sabotage, there is no involvement of any militant group” Mathur said.

A senior police officer on the spot said it was impossible to control the blaze today.

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