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No damage caused to wildlife or humans, forest fire largely under control: Odisha official

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Claiming that no life was lost in the forest blaze, which had been raging in Odisha for more than a week, the state government on Tuesday said “95 per cent of the fire points” have been extinguished or at least attended to” over the last 24 hours. A massive fire ripped through vast tracts of Simlipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district and other wildlife habitats nearby, raising concern among wildlife and environmental activists over its possible impact.

Dr Sandeep Tripathy, the chief of taskforce on forest fire, said “prompt action” was taken by the field staffers to control the inferno, and several “fire points” were brought under control, with no damage caused to wildlife or humans.

“The state government has decided to engage more manpower and equipment to tackle the fire. As many as 600 squads are already working hard to contain the blaze. Hundred more squads will join them soon. Each squad contains 10 people and a vehicle.

“Apart from the blowers that are already in use, 700 more are being procured to extinguish the fire. The government has decided to give incentives to residents of fringe villages if they join the firefighting operation and prevent its proliferation,” Tripathy said.

Two teams of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) have also been pressed into service to contain the fire at Similipal National Park, which is one of the major biospheres of Asia, he said.

Earlier in the day, Chief Secretary S C Mohapatra reviewed the situation during a meeting with district collectors, divisional forest officers, senior police officers, and asked them to take necessary measures to stop the fire from spreading further.

He also asked the officials to intensify night patrolling around the affected zones, and avert crisis situations, if any, at the “quickest possible time”, a government release here said.

Local DFO have been asked to dissuade people from burning agricultural wastes in the open.

State revenue and disaster management minister Sudam Marandi, who hails from Mayurbhanj district, said all efforts were being made to douse the flames.

Meanwhile, forest officials in the district have apprehended a few traditional hunters on charge of setting fire to the national park for poaching animals.

Bhanja Sena, a local outfit, has called for a seven- hour bandh in Mayurbhanj on Wednesday in protest against the government’s alleged failure to take timely action to contain the fire. The district unit of the CPI has supported the strike.

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