Ammo depot fire toll surges to 18

The toll in Tuesday's massive fire at India's largest ammunition depot in Maharashtra's Pulgaon town, rose to 18 with bodies of two more persons recovered on Wednesday, sources said. The bodies -- whose identities are to be established -- were found in a nearby water tank where they were apparently thrown by the blast impact. One person was reported missing in the tragedy as work on clearing up debris and assessment of damage to defence assets continued. The cause of the fire accompanied by a deafening blast - which locals claimed was heard over 10 kms and damaged several homes and buildings in surrounding villages - is being investigated. On Tuesday, 16 persons lost their lives in the disaster, including Lt. Col. R.S. Pawar and Major Mohan K. and 13 civilian firemen. Another 17 were injured are are undergoing treatment in Multi Speciality Hospital in Wardha district where a team of army doctors from Pune has reached. Eyewitnesses and military officials said loud explosions followed a massive fireball at one of the sheds at the depot where ammunition with expired shelf life is also disposed.  The depot recently won an award for using solar energy to dispose of expired ammunition. As precautionery measure, the army and civil administration have evacuated five nearby villages. However, some 1,000 men, women and children from these villages were permitted to return home by Tuesday afternoon. The army has ordered a probe into the incident and the extent of damage or losses to defence assets is being ascertained.