Kashmir blaze toll climbs to 20
14 August 2007
Srinagar: The death toll in the fire at an ammunition dump in the Kashmir Valley has risen to 20 with the recovery of 15 more bodies, the Indian army says. The fire broke out at the depot in Indian- administered Kashmir on Saturday but blasts continued until Monday. About 30,000 people have fled their homes and the army says it could take two months to clean up a 225sq km area around the ammunition dump. Militants claimed to have started the fire but the army ruled out sabotage. A defence spokesman said on Monday evening that 15 more bodies had been found during a search of the depot at Khundru. He said the bodies of an army major and 13 firemen had been identified. Nine soldiers are still missing. Homes fled Although the fire has subsided, there were blasts late on Sunday night and the last explosion heard was on Monday morning. Dozens were hurt in the blaze at the depot The Indian army's general officer for the Northern Command, Lt Gen HS Panag, said the army would enter the ammunition depot 48 hours after the last explosion. He said a 225sq km area around the ammunition depot would have to be cleared of bombs and other debris before people who have been evacuated would go back to their homes. Gen Panag said the initial clean-up operation would take seven days but could last for two months. He said 10% of the ammunition of the Indian army's 15 Corps, which is based in Kashmir Valley, had been destroyed in the fire. However, he said it would not dent the Indian army's defence preparedness as the army was too huge to be affected by the loss. Gen Panag said militants could not have breached security to start a fire and that initial investigations had shown it was an accident.