Kosgama camp fire Army in the dark

‘Electric short-circuit, lightning among possible causes ...’

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The cause of the fire which triggered a series of explosions in its ammunition dumps at the Salawa Army Camp on Sunday had not been ascertained so far, Commander, Western Province Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe said yesterday.

He told a media briefing at the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) in Colombo that it was too early to come to a conclusion and the damage was being assessed.

Two investigations had been ordered by the Army and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Maj. Gen Ranasinghe said.

Only one person died in the incident while eight others were injured.

"The fire and the explosions continued till 10.30 am yesterday morning and now the situation is back to normal but still the area extending up to one kilometer from the army camp is not open to the public," he said.

The section of the Colombo- Avissawella near the army camp remained closed, he said, adding that it would re-opened to the public within the next 48 hours.

According to Maj. Gen Ranasinghe, the Salawa Army Camp had been used as a transit point during the last phase of the war which ended in 2009. Since then the storage of ammunition had been shifted and only 10 percent of the ammunition stocks remained at the time of the incident.

The ammunition store at the Army Camp and the main building of the camp had been destroyed, he said, maintaining that the army had employed internationally accepted scientific methods to store ammunition.

Though the direct cause of fire at the Salawa Camp had not been ascertained but an electrical short circuit or lightning could cause such accidents, he added.

Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe said that a new security board had been appointed to ensure the security of other ammunition dumps in the country.

Meanwhile, Disaster Management Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said that about 7,763 families had been evacuated.

About 1,120 people from186 families were still at safe locations, he added. "All facilities will be provided to the remaining displaced people at the safe locations."

Minister Yapa said that the Security Council had met yesterday but its decisions could not be revealed to the public.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWDB) assured uninterrupted water supply to the people around the Salawa Army Camp Area.

NWDB Chairman K.A. Ansar stressed that the Sunday’s blasts had caused a water purification facility close to the camp to be shut down and therefore bowsers and tanks were being used to keep the people suppled with water.

Central Environment Authority (CEA) Deputy Director General Dr. Sanjaya Ratnayake said a thorough investigation would be conducted in the area to check whether the water resources and the air had been polluted due to the explosions.

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