Fire at SLA camp in Welikande
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 13 July 1999, 11:06 GMT]
Six Sri Lanka Army soldiers and 4 civilians were wounded when fire broke out in the artillery dump of the SLA's 23-1 brigade camp at Welikande, in the Polannaruwa district, about 70 km. north-west of Batticaloa around 8.30 a.m. this morning.
The fire caused a series of explosions in the artillery dump, completely destroying parts of the camp.
SLA sources said that an artillery shell might have accidentally exploded during training today, causing the fire.
Military spokesman, Brigadier Sunil Tennekoon, told State radio that the fire brigade had already doused the flame. He also said that civilians near the camp were evacuated to safer areas.
The State radio said that the cause of the fire is still being investigated. Other sources have said that an attack by the LTTE cannot be ruled out.
Several houses nearby were also destroyed by explosions triggered by the fire and loss life was prevented as residents had already been evacuated, sources said.
The injured are now being treated at the Anuradhapura hospital in the North-central province.
Fire fighters from Polannaruwa brought the fire under control after about 4 hours, the sources said.
Air Force personnel from Anuradhapura were also called in to assist the fire fighters, the sources added.
All transport between Batticaloa and Polannauruwa was brought to a standstill because of the fire.
Local residents said that thick smoke was seen in the area.
Defence sources said that the extent of the damage and loss of weaponry are yet to be assessed.