Dehradun: Raging forest fires in Uttarakhand on Sunday threatened to wipe out some 1500 hundred villages, prompting the central government to beef up preventive measures by deploying three teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) even as Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh extended all help to Governor KK Paul to mitigate the crisis.
Forest fires were reported from at least 50 locations of the state, threatening to destroy human life and property. On Friday night, scores of villagers and the rescue teams deployed by the state government struggled to contain the fire.
On Saturday, Indian Air Force has also deployed an 11-member team equipped with a Mi-17 helicopter to control the blaze. This comes after the state government sought its help.
According to media reports, about 1,900 hectare of forests covering five districts have been affected in the fire.
Governor KK Paul held a meeting with district officials to review the situation.
Meanwhile, three teams of NDRF, comprising 135 personnel, have been deployed in the forests of Uttarakhand to bring the fire under control.
NDRF director general OP Singh said his personnel have already started work in the affected areas.
The request for NDRF personnel was made by the state administration on Friday.
Garhwal Inspector General of Police Sanjay Gunjyal reportedly said that while two NDRF teams have been deployed in Garhwal region, one has been sent to Kumaon, the worst hit areas.
Also, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Saturday sought information on fires in forests in Uttarakhand from the state government and assured all possible relief.
The forest fires in Uttarakhand have already destroyed nearly 1900 hectares of forest land in 13 districts since February.
"Three teams of NDRF comprising 135 personnel deployed to control fire in forests in Uttarakhand. The operation has begun," said Singh.
The NDRF teams are equipped with water tankers, floating pumps and medical setup to assist the rescue operation.
The teams will be posted at Almora, Pauri and Gauchar in Chamoli districts. Locals have been told to report a fire incident to the concerned district magistrate as soon as they spot it.
Pre-fire alerts listing possible fire points over the next seven days in forest areas are being made available on the forest department website.
Besides ravaging forests, the fire has killed four people, including two women, in Uttarkashi and a woman and her child in Nainital district.
Two others were reportedly burnt in separate incidents in Nainital and Chamoli districts.
Authorities had to close National Highway 58 that connects Badrinath for hours on Thursday after the forest fire could not be controlled.
Governor K.K. Paul has asked officials to scale up operations to control the fire.He has ordered deployment of additional staff and allocation of Rs. 5 crore to meet out the immediate financial needs required to control the fires.
Deposed chief minister Harish Rawat has written to Paul urging him to declare Uttarakhand a `forest fire-ravaged` state.