Three people have been killed and three others injured in forest fires that have been raging in Balochistan’s Sherani district in Zhob division.
The fire in the forest started eight days ago after the area was struck by lightning. It has now turned into a deadly inferno with Divisional Forest Officer Ateeq Agha saying on Thursday that hundreds of people living in a village inside the forest had been forced to leave their homes.
Other people living near the forest have also begun to migrate to safer places.
Thick smoke plumes rising from Musakhel Sherani forest were seen miles away.
Ateeq Agha said fires were raging at three points in the pine and olive forests of Yashrani and Musakhel in Balochistan’s Sherani district.
The areas border Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
Agha said the fire originally erupted on the KP side but spread and engulfed the thick forest patches in the Sherghali area of Balochistan. An area spreading over 10 kilometers has been damaged by the fire.
He said that three people were burnt to death and three others sustained injuries after seven men went to the mountain in an attempt to fight the blaze.
The official said the forest department officers and levies personnel tried to put out the blaze by improvising rescue efforts, but they faced difficulties due to the intensity of the fire and their inability to reach high mountains.
He expressed concern that the forest fire was rapidly spreading toward populated villages and could force more people out of their homes.
“The teams from Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Forest Department, and district administration have been working to control the fire,” he said.
On the directives of Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudus Bizenjo, the efforts to put out the fire have been amped up. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has sent a helicopter to extinguish the fire.
However, Agha said the helicopter was spraying water from a great height which was ineffective in controlling the fire.
To prevent more fires, Balochistan’s chief secretary has directed the concerned departments to take precautionary measures and submit a report on it.
Officials said they were also probing into different reasons including the handiwork of miscreants behind the forest fire incidents.