GFMC staff flying in the region on 15 April 2002 have observed the smoke-haze traveling from the South of Viet Namtowards the coast of Thailand. So far the smoke-haze has not yet caused any impact on regional or local maritime andair traffic.
The GFMC is monitoring the situation and investigating the possible involvement of experts to conduct a situationassessment for possible international assistance.
Latest news from VietnamNews17 April 2002:
U Minh Ha fire-fighters must contain blaze says PM Khai
CA MAU Prime Minister Phan Van Khai on Monday urged ministries and local authorities to take urgent measures to curb the blaze engulfing U Minh Ha cajeput forestin the southernmost province of Ca Mau.
“All forces and equipment must be mobilised to isolate the fire,” Khai told an emergencymeeting with local officials, after he and other senior officials inspected the destructionfrom a helicopter.
More than 4,000 soldiers, policemen and local residents have been sent to the site tocombat the blaze, which broke out on Friday afternoon and razed 3,000ha of 12-year-oldcajeput trees in U Minh Ha.
“The blaze is threatening another 10,000ha including 3,000ha of Vo Doi protectiveforests,” said Vo Thanh Binh, chairman of Ca Mau Peoples Committee, during a meeting with PM Khai in Ca Mau township.
According to Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Le Huy Ngo, the firemenhave been clearing trees to create fire-break corridors from 30m to 50m wide to stop thefire from spreading, and are using large excavators to dig trenches.
Khai asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the provincialauthorities to map out another zoning scheme for U Minh Ha forests to ensure they arebetter protected in future.
“U Minh Ha should be divided into small sections of less than 2,000ha each, and anetwork of canals or ditches should be built,” he said.
The PM also asked relevant authorities to create buffer zones for use in preventing andfighting fires. He said the top priority was to raise local peoples awareness of the needto protect the forests.
Khai also asked forest rangers to be on the alert, saying the rising incidence of bushfireoutbreaks signalled a dereliction of duty.
He also ordered Ca Mau Peoples Committee to rehabilitate infrastructure includingroads, health clinics and schools in the area affected by the fire.
This would help quickly return peoples lives to normal once the fire was brought under
control, he said.
Forestfires and land-use fires in Viet Nam, including the fire disaster zone in U MinhThuong National Park, acquired by the Moderate-resolution ImagingSpectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on 16 April 2002.
Thisreport is based on information provided by the UNDP Office in Vietnam, theDisaster Management Unit and media reports.
1.A forest fire, that started on 23 March in the 8,000‑hectare U Minh ThuongNational Park in the southern province of Ca Mau, is now raging out of controland threatens to destroy thousands of hectares of forest.Temperaturesin the heart of the forest have soared to 50 degrees Celsius and reachedthousands of degrees in the 0.5 to 1.5 metre‑thick smouldering peat andcoal layers. The combined high temperatures and strong winds have occasionallyproduced large fireballs, endangering the remaining forest and hampering effortsto extinguish the fire. A prolonged drought has severely limited theavailability of fresh water, which is hindering fire‑fighting efforts. UMinh Thuong Forest is ranked as the world’s second richest and largest mangroveforest after the Amazon rain forest in Brasil.
2.The fire is believed to have destroyed over 4,000 hectares of virgin forest.This will affect the lives of thousands of poor families living in the area, andwill also have significant ecological impacts, including loss of biodiversityand habitat to local species.
3.Thousands of policemen, military, forest rangers and local residents have joinedforces to combat the fire. Fire fighters have isolated approximately 5,000hectares of virgin and newly planted forest by digging a 6 metre wide, 3metre deep and 10 metre long canal, along which more than 100 pumpsare running 24 hours a day to provide water for the fire fighting effort. A 10metre‑wide fire prevention belt is being cleared. So far, digging ditchesaround the burning areas has been the only way to halt the spread of the fire.
4.The police and armed forces were mobilised on Tuesday, 2 April to assist thefire fighters, and military units are said to be at the forefront of the effort.
5.The provincial authorities have mobilised all tractors and pumps owned byresidents in neighbouring areas.
6.No request for international assistance has been received by OCHA to date.
7.OCHA is in close contact with the office of the United Nations ResidentCoordinator in Hanoi and will revert with further information.
8.This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies,is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int
Lastreport by the Environment News Service
(forphotographs: see http://ens-news.com/ens/apr2002/2002L-04-09-02.html)
FieryInferno Engulfs Vietnamese National Park
Hanoi,9 April 2002 – Thousands of policemen, military personnel, forest rangers andlocal residents have joined forces to fight a fire eating its way through U MinhThuong National Park in the southernmost province of Kien Giang.
Theforest fire, which officials say started on March 23, has been raging out ofcontrol. A report of Vietnam’s official news agency VNA today says firefightershave contained the blaze but not before it destroyed an estimated 4,200 hectaresof peat swamp forest, wiping out about half the national park.
Temperaturesin the fire’s core area have hit 50 degrees Celsius and reached thousands ofdegrees in the deep layers of burning peat and coal beneath the forest floor.
Combinedsoaring temperatures and strong winds have occasionally produced largefireballs, endangering the remaining forest and hampering efforts to extinguishthe fire.
Thesmoke is rising from the U Minh Thuong blaze to join the smoke from many firesthat currently dot the landscape across much of Southeast Asia, filling theskies with a thick blanket of smoke over much of the region.
Thisis normally the dry season, and in addition, a drought that has lasted since theEl Nino weather pattern of 1998 has limited the availability of fresh water,making firefighting a tough job.
Sofar, digging ditches around the burning areas has been the only way to halt thespread of the fire.
Firefightershave isolated about 5,000 hectares ofvirgin and newly planted forest by digging a six metre wide, three metre deepand 10 metre long canal, along which more than 100 pumps are running day andnight to provide water for the fire fighting effort. The provincial authoritieshave mobilized all tractors and pumps owned by residents in neighbouring areasto draw water from existing canals criss-crossing the area.
Thenational park is part of a large area of seasonally flooded Melaleuca swampforest north and west of Ca Mau town near the shores of the Gulf of Thailand.The peat swamp forests of U Minh comprise a mosaic of forest fragments separatedby rice fields, settlements and canals. The northernmost forest fragment is UMinh Thuong which normally floods during the rainy season and dries out in thedry season
Dr.Julian Thompson, lecturer in physical geography at the University College Londonwho did research in U Minh Thuong in 2001, says the inner forest or StrictlyProtected Zone of about 8,130 hectares “has been impacted by humanactivities such as canal construction and logging in addition to frequent fires.The impact of these factors has been the erosion of much of the peat layeraround the forest margins.”
Describingthe area for the World Conservation Union, Le Dien Duc wrote, “In the past,this region was famous for its dense Melaleuca forests. However, during the waryears the region suffered serious damage from bombing and the extensive use ofnapalm and toxic chemicals, and since then, large areas have been cleared fortimber and agricultural land or destroyed by forest fires. Only some 63,000hectares of forest remain, and much of this, such as the U Minh Thuong forest,is in very poor condition.”
Thecause of the current fire is unknown. Officials say an investigation will takeplace after the fire is out.