Explosions trigger forest fire in Poonch

     Explosions trigger forest fire in Poonch

12 March 2009

published by www.risingkashmir.com

Srinagar, Kashmir, India — A forest fire triggered by landmine blasts near Line of Control (LoC) continues to rage for the second day and is threatening to engulf everything which comes its way including the dwindling wildlife in Poonch district of Jammu region, official sources said.

Sources said fire erupted at around 1900 hours last night in compartment number 145 at Balakote in Mendhar area of the district Poonch and since then it continues to grow stronger.

”About 200 to 250 explosions took place on the other side of LoC, during the night hours, in Mendhar sector of Poonch,” an official source said.

The major forest fire is said to be the cause of landmine blasts, the frequency of which was very high between 2300 to 0100 hrs in the night, the source said.

“Trees spread over more than a kilometer have perished so far and the fire continues to grow stronger,” Nazir Ahmad, concerned Block officer of the forest department said over phone.

He said that the area is under the control of 5 Assam regiment of the army and lies close to the Raj Takeri Forward (438) post.

The fire, sources said, is threatening to engulf every thing which comes in its way. “Extreme heat has also led to the detonation of eight mines planted on the border leading to death of several wild animals,” the sources added.

According to the Nazir Ahmad, the block officer, the area has thick forest cover with ‘Cheer’ tress and is home to precious wildlife animals including Hiran (Deer), Cheetah besides birds including the Peacock.

“The heat generated by the fire is so intense that we have been unable to access the area besides our rescue work has been hampered by the presence of mines in the area.” Nazir Ahmad said, adding, “The army authorities are asking for written assurance on part of any causality to the staff.”

“Only rain can prevent the fire from spreading, which is most unlikely. It may stop on reaching the other side as the streams flowing towards Pakistan can prove an impediment to the fire,” he said, adding, “Incase the fire spreads from road side, we have kept our staff ready to face any challenge and we are ready to stop it.”

Another victim of this fire, sources said, is likely to be the border fence on the LoC. “The extreme heat generated by the fire could damage the pillars and even melt the iron wires leading to a hole in the border fence,” the sources said.

Army’s spokesman in Jammu expressed ignorance about any such incident. “There are no such reports,” he said.

Interestingly, P. K Bhat, SDM Mendhar said, “The area is under the control of the army and civil administration is unable to intervene.”

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