Uttarakhand looks to rain gods for dousing forest fires

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Lucknow/Dehradun, May 2 (IANS) After several sorties by MI-17 choppers trying to douse the forest fires in Uttarakhand were aborted at many places on Sunday owing to “poor visibility and thick smoke”, the state government was pinning its hopes on the rain gods, which the Met office said will oblige this week.

For now, other than trying “every method at hand, we can just pray that rains lash the state as soon as possible”, a senior government official told IANS.

“Though the rains have proved to be a big bane for us here over the past few years, at this hour we are just praying that it pours from the skies above,” the official said.

While there are more than a thousand fires raging at different places in the state, the incidences of fire outbreaks have gone up by four times in the past 24-hours, officials informed.

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Additional Chief Secretary S. Ramaswamy, who held a high-level review meeting of forest department officials on Sunday, said 40 master control rooms were set up, and 1,166 fire extinguishing mobile groups were pressed into service.

Every group has five to seven members and in addition 14,000 villagers were trained in fire control.

According to an official, the number of people out in the field to spot fires has also been doubled from the initial 3,000.

One team each of the National Disaster Response Force was rushed to Nainital, Almora, Gauchar and Pauri.

A sum of Rs.5 crore was sanctioned to ‘Van Panchayats’ and 100 Programme Requirements Document jawaans were deputed in forest reserves to timely notice if any fire breaks out.

In the fire over the last 88 days, nearly 3,000 acres of forest cover has been damaged in Uttarakhand, sources said.

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