In a combined effort, the military and firefighters attempted to frantically douse the fire at the Salawa Army Camp’s armoury in Kosgama, amidst continuing explosions, while people living within a six kilometer radius of the camp were ordered to immediately evacuate their homes.
There was a severe traffic block on the Colombo – Avissawella Road, while a section of the road was closed off as a precautionary measure due to the explosions from the armoury, and fear of debris falling on to the road.
The military and the firefighters were taking every effort to ensure the fire doesn’t spread further.
The reason for the fire is still not known, and there is still no information on the casualties from the incident.
An eyewitness said that the people around the area were continuing to hear huge explosions and fire balls erupting from the camp, despite it being several hours since the fire started, while the Air Force said that a B200 Aircraft has been deployed for observational purposes.
A highly placed military expert said that former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga should take full responsibility for this incident, as the armoury was established in Kosgama on her orders, when she was the defence minister, despite strong protests against her decision. The establishment of the armoury at Kosgama was deemed as a move against the law as well as against certain standards.
“However, without heeding advice, she went ahead and established the armoury in this residential area and this is the result today. It could have resulted in a much bigger disaster if not for the military and firefighters,” the expert said.
The expert noted that even though it’s been some 18 years since the armoury was established, the residents of the area never pressured the authorities to shift the armoury out of the area. “Other than the military and the politicians, no one else knew the extent of the armoury and how much ammunition it carried, hence people were indifferent to it, as they did not realize the gravity of it until today,” the expert said.
It is believed that the armoury had comprised some 600 container loads of explosives.