Mizoram Wildfire: Six Main Infernos Took 72 Hours and Airforce Intervention to Douse
By: Sashwata Saha
After almost 80 hours, a forest fire that had been raging in the hills of the northeastern state Mizoram, spreading to towns and villages of neighbouring districts, Lunglei and Lawngtlai, has been mostly doused, as per reports.
Miraculously, no deaths were reported.
The fire was initially reported on the outskirts of Lunglei, the second largest town in the state, on Saturday morning. It had engulfed six out of the total 11 districts in the state by Monday evening, PTI reported. Firefighters from the state government along with Assam Rifles and Border Security Force personnel and local volunteer groups worked together to try and bring the disaster under control.
By Sunday evening, as the fire reached the farms in the rural development blocks of Lawngtlai town, the Indian Air Force — at the behest of the Mizoram government — deployed two Mi-17V5 helicopters, equipped with specialised Bambi Buckets, to control the inferno.
Lawngtlai District Collector Kulothungan Asokan said to Newshound India Foundation over the phone, “We had managed to control most of the flames by Saturday evening only. But due to winds, it erupted again early on Sunday. This time, the current high winds and dry vegetation of the farms were contributing to its spread and making it very difficult for us. Luckily, after almost one and a half days of consistent effort, we managed to curb the fire.”
Citing Malsawmtluanga Fanchun, the under-secretary of the Department of Disaster Management and Rehabilitation, The Telegraph reported that about 5,789.5 acres of the forest area has been destroyed in the forest fire. According to a press statement from the state’s public relations department, the fire had reached some buildings in Zotlang, Serkawn and Chanmari villages but could be contained before it could cause any major damage. 85% of these areas are under forest cover.
Satellite data assessment by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) shows that there were 2,671 forest fire points in the state between April 20 and 28, with over 400 points on Monday alone followed by 113 on Tuesday. NASA’s Earthdata also showed a significant concentration of fires in and around the state between Saturday and Wednesday. Both data sets conclude that there were six separate major infernos in the state in that period.
While the government has officially declared dry weather to be the reason behind the fire, Newshound India Foundation was told that the DC suspects it to be maN-made. An investigation into it is underway as a joint effort between the Collector’s office, local village councils and the Young Mizo Association.
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