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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Fire at Indian arms depot
Map showing location
Firefighters are battling to put out a large blaze at an army ammunition depot in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

The fire at Birdwal, about 400 km from the state capital Jaipur, followed a series of huge explosions, according to an army spokesman, M L Arora.

Villager looking at debris
A fire at Pathankot scattered debris everywhere
Some of them were so loud that they could be heard 15 km away.

Mr Arora told the French news agency AFP that eight army fire engines had been requisitioned to fight the blaze.

"We hope to bring it under control soon. The fire broke out at midday. We are not sure what caused the accident," he said.

People in nearby villages have been evacuated as a precaution.

There are no reports as yet of any casualties.

Birdwal is near Suratgarh, which houses a power station.

Heat hazard

This is the third major blaze at an Indian arms depot in the past year.

In April, there was a fire at an ammunition storage facility just outside Pathankot in Punjab, in which nearly 500 tonnes of heavy ammunition was destroyed.

There was also a major fire at the Bharatpur depot last year.

Military analysts say that fires will continue to be a potential hazard in Indian Army ammunition dumps, where rising summer temperatures have been known to heat up explosives stored in the open.

According to them, obsolete and unstable ammunition stored at such dumps is at great risk of spontaneous combustion.

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See also:

30 Apr 01 | South Asia
Huge blaze at Indian arms depot
02 May 00 | South Asia
Huge loss in arms depot fire
28 Apr 00 | South Asia
Depot blaze sparks panic
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