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Raging for over 30 hours, Mizoram forest fire spreads to towns, gutting homes; IAF called in

On Sunday evening, as the fire continued to burn, the Indian Air Force — requisitioned by the Mizoram government — deployed two Mi-17V5 helicopters, equipped with Bambi Bucket, to control it.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: April 26, 2021 8:42:26 am
Mizoram fireFirefighters from the state government, with the help of Assam Rifles and Border Security Force personnel and local volunteer groups have been trying hard to put the fire out, authorities said. (Twitter: @ZoramthangaCM)

For more than 32 hours now, a forest fire has been raging in the hills of south Mizoram, spreading to towns and villages of two neighbouring districts, Lunglei and Lawngtlai.

Firefighters from the state government, with the help of Assam Rifles and Border Security Force personnel and local volunteer groups have been trying hard to put the fire out, authorities said.

On Sunday evening as the fire continued to burn, the Indian Air Force — requisitioned by the Mizoram government — deployed two Mi-17V5 helicopters, equipped with specialised Bambi Buckets, to control it.

The fire reportedly started at 7 am Saturday in the forested hills near Lunglei town. By Sunday, it had not only affected 10 village council areas within Lunglei town, but also spread to three rural development blocks of Lawngtlai district.

“We managed to control a good part of it last evening itself,” said Kulothungan A, DC, Lunglei district, “However, it erupted again this morning and it is still going on. We are trying but the current high winds and dry vegetation are contributing to its spread and making it challenging.”

Fire According to a press statement from Mizoram DIPR, the fire in localities such as Zotlang, Serkawn, Chanmari in Lunglei town reached “some buildings, but could be contained and doused before it caused any major loss to property.”

According to a press statement from Mizoram DIPR, the fire in localities such as Zotlang, Serkawn, Chanmari in Lunglei town reached “some buildings, but could be contained and doused before it caused any major loss to property.”

“As the fire had spread close to human settlements, the administration had evacuated residents of the area. No injuries to humans or damage to any property has been reported yet,” DC Kulothungan said.

However, there have been reports of damage from Lawngtlai district. “In Bungtlang South, the fire completely consumed 12 houses and partially destroyed two. No persons were injured but livestock perished,” said Marilyn Rualzakhumthangi, ADC, Lawngtlai district. She added that the district administration dispatched officials and immediate relief supplies to the village.

“Smaller fires are still burning and at this moment it is assumed that it will not pose danger to human habitation but it cannot be ruled out,” said ADC Rualzakhumthangi.

The cause of the fires is still to be ascertained. “We are hoping to control it by the evening,” said DC Kulothungan. When asked if it could because of jhum cultivation — a major cause of forest fires in Mizoram — DC Kulothungan said he could “not confirm or comment because it was still under investigation.”

In February, Mizoram forest officials had said that around 1,300 forest fires were reported in the state in 2020 — while around 1,090 incidents were caused due Jhum cultivation, 210 were due to natural causes. A major part of rural Mizoram practises Jhum cultivation, the slash-and-burn method of farming, which involves clearing a piece of land and then burning it, in a bid to make it more fertile for cultivation thereafter. Many times, the wind carries inflammable material to adjoining areas, which causes them to catch fire.

As per the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun, forests of the Northeast and central India regions are the most vulnerable areas to forest fires. Forests in Assam, Mizoram and Tripura have been identified as ‘extremely prone’ to forest fire.

FSI’s India State of Forest Report (ISFR)-2019 said that Mizoram has a forest cover of 85.41 per cent.

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