At least 20 acres of mangrove forest in Orissa’s famous Bhitarkanika National Park were devastated by a fire Monday, officials said. A group of people attempting to drive out swarms of bees on a tree lit a fire that spread to the forest, the officials said. The fire broke out at 11 a.m. near Krishnapriyapur village in Kendrapada district, 130 km from here.
District forest officials rushed to the spot to bring the fire under control, an official said. Bhitarkanika is home to the largest population of giant saltwater crocodiles in India and it is the country’s second largest mangrove ecosystem.
It also includes the Gahirmatha beach, one of the largest rookeries for Olive Ridley turtles. Forest fires are common in Orissa’s searing dry summers. A fire in the park in 1998 had destroyed about 100 acres of forest.