Blaze in Aero India parking area guts 300 cars, no casualties

Bengaluru: In a second major mishap at the 12th edition of the five-day Aero India show here, nearly 300 cars in a designated parking area caught fire and were completely destroyed on Saturday afternoon.  While the first mishap was in the air when two Surya Kiran jets collided mid-air on February 19 and went up in flames killing pilot Sahil Gandhi, Saturday’s fire was a major one in terms of scale. There was no loss of life, but there was large-scale damage to high-end cars and bikes.

Officials said the fire could be attributed to a lit cigarette that was carelessly disposed off in the dry grass near the parking lot. Also Bengaluru has been experiencing extreme dry weather accompanied by strong winds. So all these factors may have contributed to the rapid spread of fire. The Aero India show area and the nearby Yelahanka Air Base were covered by huge plumes of thick black smoke.  The fire broke out minutes after badminton star PV Sindhu took off co-piloting the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas trainer variant.

The fight was soon asked to return and the fire at the car parking area forced suspension of further display for the morning and no other plane took off after Sindhu’s. Fire-fighters created more space between cars in order to control the fire from spreading further. Officials at one time wanted to shift some of the high-end fighter planes that had come for the biennial show from US, Russia and other countries. But the fire was at the other side of the highway that separated the mishap site from the Aero India venue.

Aero India Officials admitted that it was a dangerous and if the wind had changed directions, a major catastrophe may have occurred. However, a few planes were quickly taken to safe areas. Senior police officer MN Reddi told media that the fire spread rapidly due to dry grass and strong winds. Hundreds of vehicles, including two-wheelers and cars, were seen parked in files in the open ground, surrounded by fire. The fire, which began at 11:55 am, has been brought under control and no injuries have been reported.

A Defence Ministry statement said “IAF immediately launched one helicopter for aerial assessment, which assisted by providing effective directions to fight the blaze. The fire was brought under control by deploying over 12 fire fighting vehicles,” the statement said.

A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause of fire, the Defence Ministry added. The air show was immediately suspen­ded and no more planes took off from the airbase till the fire was completely doused and the area declared safe. The five-day air show began on Wednesday and will conclude on Sunday. The two mishaps have come as a black mark on Bengaluru as the venue for the aero show even as there are strong moves to shift the event to Goa or UP.

Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy urged people to not panic and said he has directed officials to take necessary steps. “No need to panic with regards to fire incident during the Aero India show. There is no loss of life. There are reports about vehicles getting burnt,” he said in a tweet in Kannada.

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