Firefighting operations continued on a warfooting in Uttarakhand on Tuesday with three IAF choppers sprinkling water on flaming forests as over 11,000 personnel fought infernos from the ground leading to further decline in the number of active fires.
The IAF helicopters made 16 sorties in Nainital and Pauri to pour water on the blazing jungles.
“The declining trend continues with the number of active fires reduced from yesterday’s 40 to 26. The number was 70 on Sunday when the choppers began their operations.
“There were 121 incidents of forest fire today out of which 95 have been controlled,” additional chief secretary S Ramaswamy said.
Noting that the declining trend in the number of active fires is an indication that the strategy adopted to overcome the situation was right, Ramaswamy said over 11 thousand personnel drawn from different government departments and supplemented by the NDRF are engaged in the operations.
Nearly 3466 hectares of forested land has been ravaged by fires in 1591 incidents since the start of the fire season in February this year. Four people lost their lives in these incidents.
When told that two more women had been killed in a forest fire incident in Uttarkashi on February 2 this year, Ramswamy did not deny that but said the official records have not taken cognisance of the two casualties as they may have occurred before February 15, which is the official date for the start of the fire season. If these deaths are also included, forest fires have claimed a total of six lives so far.
Apart from the number of active fires getting reduced, another encouraging factor is a spell of light to moderate showers forecast by the weather department for most parts of Uttarakhand beginning this evening.
“It will help boost our operations,” he said.
Asked whether the forest fires had caused panic among tourists planning to visit the hills of Uttarakhand during the peak of summer and the approaching yatra season, he said people were definitely curious to know about the prevailing conditions but they had not cancelled their bookings.
He also appealed to the media to go by the facts and not to file exaggerated reports and scare potential visitors to the state which receives lakhs of devotees from all over the country and abroad during the chardham yatra season scheduled to begin on May 9.