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Pakistani shelling was reported in Rajouri sector till 8 am on Sunday, and people were busy collecting their belongings from the rubble of their damaged homes to move to safer places. In Nowshera sector, the shelling had stopped since Saturday evening but the civil and police administration were battling a new problem — forest fires. There have been no report of casualties on the Indian side so far.
Defence Ministry spokesperson Lt Colonel Manish Mehta said: “Pakistani troops initiated indiscriminate firing of small arms, automatics, 82 mm and 120 mm mortars from 6.45 am along the LoC in Rajouri sector. The Indian Army posts are retaliating strongly and effectively. The firing stopped at 8 am.” Apprehending escalation in the situation, Rajouri Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary has ordered closure of 87 schools in close vicinity of the LoC in the entire district till further orders. Three schools were damaged in Pakistani shelling in the Nowshera sector on Saturday.
“The blasts triggered by mortar shelling have caused forest fire at various places in Jhanghar, Seir-Makri, Kalsiyan and Baba Khori areas in Nowshera,” said Subdivisional Magistrate Harbans Lal Sharma. “Apart from preventing the fire from spreading downwards towards the villages, we cannot start fire fighting operations. Teams cannot be sent into the forests because of an alert along the border in view of the Pakistani shelling,” he added. “There are unexploded mortar shells in the forests and they are exploding on coming in contact with the fire.”
The cloud of smoke emanating from the forest on the mountain ridges along the LoC is visible from Nowshera town. Teams comprising police, civil administration and local people in many places were trying to contain the fire.
The administration evacuated over 1,000 people in the police’s mobile bullet-proof bunkers from a number of places on Saturday night, while many more had moved on their own to homes of relatives in safer places. More people are being evacuated as there is no certainty whether the present lull will last, a senior official said.
At first light, as teams of doctors, paramedics and officials from the civil administration and police moved into villages, the first problem they faced was disposing of carcasses of cattle killed in shelling and providing treatment to the injured. Nearly 200-300 houses were damaged.