At least 17 killed in major fire at Indian ammunition depot

Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he is "pained by the loss of lives"

At least 17 killed in major fire at Indian ammunition depot

File photo: Indian army soldiers take position during a shooting near a military convoy | ar Yasin/AP/Press Association Images

A blaze at a large military ammunition depot in India has killed at least 17 people and left more than a dozen injured, authorities have said.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as emergency teams battle the fire in Wardha, central India.

The Press Trust of India news agency said two officers were among 17 soldiers killed at the depot, which is one of the country's largest.

The fire reportedly followed an explosion in the early hours of the morning.

Smita Patil, superintendent of Wardha district police, told AFP from the scene: "Seventeen people have died. Nineteen are injured but are out of danger.

"An operation is in progress and the fire has been brought under control."

Ramesh Barde, a fire officer at the Nagpur fire department, told the news agency firefighters using 10 fire engines battled through the night to contain the blaze.

"The fire broke out at 1.30am and nearby fire engines reached the venue by 2.30am," he said.

"The fire was brought under control by 6.15am. The situation is under control and a report is being prepared," he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter he was "pained by (the) loss of lives", adding his "thoughts are with the bereaved families". 

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the accident had caused a "great loss of lives and property".

India's military has a history of fires and other accidents that have been blamed on poor safety standards, including a fire on a submarine that left two officers dead off the coast of Mumbai in 2014.

In 2007, a fire tore through an ammunition dump in Indian Kashmir, exploding artillery shells and mortar rounds, which then rained down on surrounding villages.

At least 17 people were killed and two dozen more injured.

A blaze also ripped through a large ammunition depot in Kolkata in 2010, destroying 150 tons of explosives and ammunition. No one was killed in the incident.