Major forest fire on both sides of LoC

Major forest fire on both sides of LoC

11 June 2007

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Kashmir, India — Hundreds of wild animals including wild fowl, hog deer and langurs have perished in the fire that has engulfed forests on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), since the last ninedays.

On Saturday, the fire had triggered a series of landmine blasts in Jammu-Kashmir’s Mendhar sector.

The administration and police have been put on alert as the forest fire continues to spread due to strong winds.

Poonch Senior Superintendent of Police Jagjit Kumar said though most of the affected areas are beyond the barbed wire fence, police have been on alert in case the fire spreads to residential areas.

Forest officials said rains are the only solution to the fire. A Defence ministry spokesperson, however, dismissed it as a bush fire saying that it had not affected troop deployment along the LoC.

On Sunday, it had reached Kanoyian and Jhallas, but it was brought under control by police with the help of locals, he said. On Monday too, it spread to Kanoyian, engulfing Forest Compartment number 230.

There have been no reports of loss of human life or property so far.

Sources said the fire has spread over an area of 25-29 km along the Line of Control. The worst affected areas include Compartment numbers 130,131,144,145, 205 and 206 at Balnoi, Malikpur, Gollat, Sona Wali Gali in the Mendhar sector.

Sources said the fire had broken out across the LoC in Pakistan occupied Kashmir on June 2. However, at the time, no one had foreseen that it will spread to this side.

“These forests were untouched and there had been huge accumulation of bio-mass as no civilian movement was allowed there in the last 17 years because of militantcy-reltaed activities,” said Poonch Divisional Forest Officer Brij Mohan Sharma.

Yesterday, Forest department officials found the charred body of a hog deer which had probably jumped from a cliff to escape the fire. Sharma admitted that the fire had caused damage to wildlife but said its exact extent cannot be ascertained yet.

“The tempereature is so high in these areas that it is difficult to even carry out fire fighting operations,” he said.

Meanwhile, yesterday a fire had broken out in Surankote’s Dehra Gali and anther one at Magnar near Haveli. While the former was brought under control with the help of residents, the one at Magnar is still on, sources said.

Poonch Deputy Commissioner J S Pachnananda said they can’t be fully sure as to whether there are any casualties because there are many areas which are inaccessible and officials have not been able to establish any contact with them because of poor road connectivity. So far, no village has been vacated.

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