The fire that started two weeks ago in olive and pine nuts (chilghoza) forests at the Balochistan-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa border is still burning despite all-efforts by provincial and federal disaster management authorities.
The fire has engulfed swathes of forest at the Koh-e-Suleiman in Balochistan’s Sherani and Musakhail districts.
Sherani Forest Officer Ateeq Kakar has said that so far, 35percent of the forest has been burnt. He claimed that 45 personnel of forest department and 35 locals were assisting in the firefighting efforts.
The rescue teams from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were also involved in firefighting efforts, trying to control the fire from the other side of the border. However, Kakar claimed that no rescue teams from KP have arrived at the scene.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has provided a helicopter to control the fire. The Pakistan Army has also sent two helicopters, while another helicopter has arrived from Tehran to assist in the firefighting efforts.
“A [frontier Constabulary] FC Wing and two Army helicopters along with local administration and Levies have been employed in fire fighting and relief efforts. One helicopter is being used to drop water and other is being used to drop fire ball and fire extinguishing chemicals on the fire,” said an ISPR statement.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday chaired a meeting to review the situation. The meeting was attended by the representatives of the federal and provincial government, NDMA, PDMA, and Pakistan Army.
The prime minister directed the authorities to utilize the latest fire-fighting techniques to overcome the fire.
So far, the fire has claimed three lives, while as many people were injured after seven men went to the mountain in an attempt to fight the blaze. Divisional Forest Officer Ateeq Agha said Thursday that hundreds of people living in a village nearby the forest had been forced to leave their homes.
Satellite images from NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System show that the fire has been restricted to smaller area on May 22. However, it is still burning with great intensity at multiple points on both sides of the border.
The first reports of the fire emerged on May 7, with Balochistan authorities claiming that the fire entered into the province from KP.
The forest is one of the largest pine nut forests in the world. Pakistan produces 6,40,000kg of pine nut annually – 15percent of the world’s total production. The forest in Sherani makes up for more than half of this production.