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Balochistan wildfire: Firefighting operation intensifies

KP govt declares emergency after raging fire at Koh-e-Sulaiman forest region

A report regarding firefighting efforts to contain wildfire in Balochistan’s Sherani area was submitted to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday, detailing the ongoing operation in the affected areas.

During a meeting in Lahore, the prime minister issued directions to the relevant authorities to accelerate their fire dousing operation in the area and summoned a report in this regard.

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According to the report, the contents of which were shared by the PM Office’s media wing in a press release, a team consisting of federal and provincial departments had been formed while a control room was set up by the department of forests and wildlife to monitor the situation, besides an emergency was imposed by the Zhob commissioner in the affected area. The Balochistan chief secretary, forest secretary and PDMA DG had also visited the affected area to supervise the ongoing operation.

Different teams of about 300 personnel were taking part in the operation in Shair Gali, Zargon Zawar, Tor Ghar and Takkai areas.

PM’s special representative and Federal Minister for Housing Maulana Abdul Wasey also chaired a meeting in Zhob which was attended by the chief minister, federal and provincial authorities and the commander of 12 corps.

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Under the prime minister’s direction, a task force under the supervision of the secretary of forests and wildlife Balochistan had been constituted in the Sherani district.

Besides, a notification related to village and area fire control committees had also been issued.

The report further said the PDMA was providing the required firefighting equipment and rescue vehicles to control the spread of wildfire. The NDMA was also supplying the necessary equipment whereas Pakistan Army provided two helicopters, besides an army base camp was set up which was extending support in the ongoing operation.

The military’s media wing said that although the population is living eight to 10 kilometres from the fire site, they have shifted 10 families residing in isolated houses to a medical relief camp.

“An FC Wing and two army helicopters along with local administration and Levies have been employed in firefighting and relief efforts,” ISPR shared details of firefighting efforts and added that a helicopter is being used to drop water and the other is being used to drop fireballs and fire extinguishing chemicals.

Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has declared an emergency after a raging fire in the Koh-e-Sulaiman forest region.

In a statement, Minister for Local Government Faisal Amin Khan said three people have died and four others were injured after being trapped in the fire, Radio Pakistan reported.

He said security forces, rescue organisations and locals are working tirelessly to contain the major fire on the Balochistan side while teams and machinery on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa side are also working to create access to the terrain area.

The minister said the lack of water on-site and cliffs make it extremely difficult to approach.

He said chilghoza, pine and olive trees over 400 acres on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa side have been affected as the strong winds are enhancing the intensity of the fire.

The chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has issued instructions to all departments for cross border support to protect people and its natural resources, said the minister.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation Muhammad Iqbal Wazir said that the provincial Rescue 1122 teams have reached Balochistan to control the raging fire in the Koh-e-Sulaiman forest region.

He said on the instructions of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan around 50 firefighters were deployed to assist the Balochistan government in controlling fire in the mountain range.

Separately, senior Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) member Prof Zahid Baig Mirza said the massive bushfires wreaking havoc and inflicting serious damage to the ecology in the foothills of the Himalayas were causing fast degradation of soil in the biodiversity-rich ecosystem.

In an interview with APP, he said the havoc of forest fires was frightening if investigated and understood.

“It is not merely burning grasses, bushes and the branches of trees. Imagine, why branches of trees and shrubs are radiating in all directions from the main trunk? These give shade to the soil on which the plant is growing. The dry leaves and pine needles fall on the soil just around the plant. These save the moisture of the topsoil from evaporation in the hot and dry season of the year,” he said. He explained that moisture was needed in the soil for the survival and functioning of the soil microbes, which were active just below the insulating layer of dead leaves and needles.

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