Wildfires sweep through forests in India

2016-05-02 20:22


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Lucknow - Massive wildfires that have killed at least seven people in recent weeks were burning through pine forests in the mountains of northern India on Monday, including parts of two tiger reserves.

With dense black smoke billowing in the skies for kilometers, authorities were urging villagers to be on alert and tourists to avoid travelling to the Himalayan foothills, popular during the summer for their cooler temperatures.

Dozens of fires were spreading unpredictably in the states of Uttarakhand and neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, officials said.

"We're struggling to bring the situation under control," forest officer Bhanu Prasad Gupta said in the state of Uttarakhand.

After state firefighters were unable for months to put out the fires, the Indian government sent air force helicopters over the weekend to drop water on blazes covering nearly 23km² of pine forests.

After areas were soaked from above, groups of villagers fanned out into the steaming jungle forests and used green-leafed branches to beat out the embers still glowing on the ground.

But the thick smoke and remote, mountainous terrain were making the job difficult for about 9 000 firefighters, soldiers and forest guards deployed to battle the flames, Gupta said. Nearby villages were asked to stay on alert, but none has yet been asked to evacuate. Authorities set up 84 monitoring centers to receive reports of new fire outbreaks.

Read more on:    india

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