Updated: April 10, 2021 3:48:43 am
Three labourers were killed and two others injured during an operation to douse a forest fire at Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) late on Thursday. The injured are being treated for burn injuries at a hospital in Nagpur, said the forest department.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Nitin Kakodkar said, “Five labourers were caught in a fire at compartment number 90 in Nagzira sanctuary of NNTR. Three of them died and two were injured. They were shifted to Orange City hospital in Nagpur for treatment of burn injuries.”
The deceased were identified as Sachin Shrirange (22), Rakesh Madawi (24) and Rekchand Rane (45). The injured were identified as Rajesh Sayam (25) and Vijay Maraskolhe (42).
Poonam Paate, Deputy Director of NNTR, said, “Some unidentified miscreants from neighbouring villages started the fire around 11.30 am. A force of about 100 labourers and forest staffers was engaged in dousing the fire that spread to five compartments, numbered 96 to 100, in Nagzira sanctuary. The team managed to extinguish it by 5 pm, but the fire started again following strong winds in the evening. So, the team went inside again and, after some time, when it had been controlled, an injured labourer came out of a compartment and said some were stuck inside. A search revealed that three persons had died of burns.”
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has condoled the deaths and announced an aid of Rs 5 lakh each to next of kin of the deceased. He also announced that the state government will bear the cost of the treatment of the injured.
Residents of Thadezari and Kosamtondi villages, where the deceased labourers belonged to, allegedly manhandled some forest department staffers after the incident.
Police were called to control the mob. There is speculation that the three labourers died due to the blast of the blowers they were carrying on their backs. Kakodkar, however, denied the reports. “Only one person had the blower. He scaled a tree and threw it on the ground. He was one of the injured, who is undergoing treatment,” he said.
Asked how the fire started, Paate said, “Some miscreants from neighbouring villages started it as revenge because we prevented them from entering the forest. We have registered a primary offence against unknown persons.”
While forest fires are common during the summer, casualties are rarely heard of. Two years ago, one person was killed in a forest fire in Pune division.
Kakodkar said, “Almost all forest fires in central India are manmade. Natural fires are very, very rare. Generally, they are caused deliberately by those collecting mahua flowers and tendu leaves.”
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