Woman, three children perish in Shangla forest fire

our correspondents
Sunday, Jun 05, 2022

MINGORA: Four members of a family were killed in the Shangla district as forest fires continued to wreak havoc in various areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, officials and locals said on Saturday.

Deputy Superintendent of Police, Chakesar, Jahanzeb Khan, said a woman and her three children died when a fire erupted in Ali Jan Banda and reduced her house to ashes. The bodies were recovered after hectic efforts and handed over to the family members after post-mortem.

"Due to difficult terrain and lack of facilities, the local people and officials from administration are facing problems to extinguish the fire, which is spreading at a great speed. We have registered the first information report (FIR) and an inquiry has been initiated to know the causes of the sudden fire in the forest," DSP Jahanzeb Khan said.

Besides Shangla, fires also erupted in various parts of Swat, including Pathanay area of Mingora, Kot area of Charbagh, Segram and Aboha area of Barikot.

Thousands of precious trees on the Swat Valley mountains have already burnt. But relevant authorities are least bothered to bring the situation under control by taking necessary steps.

Deputy Commissioner Swat Junaid Khan told this scribe that local administration with the help of rescue teams and Pak Army were striving to prevent the fire from spreading. "I have ordered to establish an inquiry committee to know the actual reasons for eruption of fire simultaneously in various parts of the district," Junaid Khan said, adding that if anyone or a group was found to be involved, it would be dealt with an iron hand.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, while expressing sorrow over the deaths, declared the victims and their families would be supported. He directed the quarters concerned to help the victims.

Meanwhile, forests over 500 acres of land were reduced to ashes as firefighters have failed to extinguish the fast-spreading fire that erupted a week ago in different areas of the district.

The local residents said that woods planted under the Billion Tree Tsunami project were completely burnt. They said that fire eruption had become routine in the forests established under the Billion Tree Tsunami project in different areas during the past two years.

They said that the inferno had erupted in different areas, including Gokand Darra, Elum mountain, Chagharzai, Ghazi Banda, Kalabat, Chahr and the forest near the deputy commissioner's office but the district administration had failed to put the blaze out even after a week.

Meanwhile, the local people rushed and started extinguishing the fire on self-help basis after announcements were made on loudspeakers in mosques and bazaars but the blaze could not be put out.

When contacted, District Forest Officer Arshad Khan said that fire had broken out in some government and private forests but fire in most areas had been extinguished. He said that some persons had also been arrested after cases were registered for their involvement in setting the forests on fire.

Also a minor fire broke out in the hills of Laram near Kotigram Ouch area of Lower Dir here on Saturday. Abdur Rahman, spokesman for Lower Dir rescue emergency, told this scribe that the forest was a private property and the reason for fire was yet to be ascertained.

Fire-fighters of Lower Dir rescue emergency had reached the forest and they were busy extinguishing the fire, he said, adding that they would control the situation in the next few hours.

A day earlier, fire was also reported in the forest of Shalkandai in Munda tehsil, which was doused by rescue emergency officials after more than five hours of hectic efforts, he said.

Talking to this scribe via phone, District Forest Officer (DFO), Lower Dir, Shah Khalid, confirmed that the fire had broken out in a private forest as there was no state land in the affected area. He said officials of the Forest Department were assisting the rescue emergency fire-fighters to control the fire. The DFO said fire was being doused through traditional methods.

A wildfire damaged a vast area of forestland around the Tarbela Dam in the limits of Tehsil Ghazi, police sources said here on Saturday. The blaze damaged both new plants and matured pine trees, Tarbela Dam sources said, adding that an assessment of the damage caused by the forest fire was underway.

Tarbela Dam authorities said that the forest fire erupted from the hilly area of Kukar Choha village of Ghazi on Friday evening and due to heavy winds, the flames engulfed the neighbouring Darra Mohat hills overlooking the main Tarbela Dam and were fast spreading to other areas.

According to Wapda's firefighting department, eight fire-brigades from Tarbela Dam, Tehsil Topi, Chinese company and TMA Ghazi took part in the rescue operation and managed to put out the blaze after an effort of 20 hours. They protected the residential area and several boats anchored near the forest range of Tarbela. Chief Engineer Civil Toraish Kumar, Superintendent Engineer Syed Ali Haider, Deputy Director Security, Tarbela Maj R Ali Raza supervised the rescue operation.

According to officials of the Tabela Forest Range office, the fire has destroyed pine and Sanatha over a large area and the assessment of damage was underway.

Earlier, a heavy wildfire had broken out in the hilly area of Kohe Gandgar in Ghazi Tehsil, causing minor burn injuries to six firefighters besides killing a number of birds and other animals.