Weeks lost: People decry delayed response as wildfires burn forests in KP

The wildfires, which started before May 23, received little attention until mother, children died
<p>Locals, along with police try to put out fire. Source: Shahab ur Rehman/ SAMAA TV</p>

Locals, along with police try to put out fire. Source: Shahab ur Rehman/ SAMAA TV

<p>Locals, along with police try to put out fire. Source: Shahab ur Rehman/ SAMAA TV</p>

Locals, along with police try to put out fire. Source: Shahab ur Rehman/ SAMAA TV

<p>Locals, NGOs, forest department and rescue authorities try to put out fire. Source: Shahab ur Rehman/ SAMAA TV</p>

Locals, NGOs, forest department and rescue authorities try to put out fire. Source: Shahab ur Rehman/ SAMAA TV

When wildfires engulfed pine and olive forest in Balochistan’s Sherani and Musakhel districts in May no one cared until they were out of control and had claimed three lives, besides destroying invaluable forests. The episode has been repeated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa now, where wildfires have been raging for the past two weeks but drew the attention of officials only a couple of days ago when a mother and three children died.

The latest reports and satellite data show the wildfires in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat, Shangla, and Buner districts appear to have lost intensity, but they have not put out so far.

Forests continued to burn in dozens of places on Sunday, data gathered by NASA indicated.

The wildfires dotted Khyber Pakhtunkhwa mountains at a much larger scale until June 1.

Local people blame rescue officials and district administrators for the delayed response to put out the fires which were first reported in the Ilam forest in Buner district started before May 23

Two weeks ago wildfires erupted at several points in the three districts, turning trees over thousands of hectares into ashes.

Fires everywhere

Fire data collected by NASA satellites show that the wildfires had been raging for over two weeks, with occasional drops that could not last more than 24 hours.

Buner and Swat were the most affected districts, where dozens of fires on the mountains began after May 23 and continued to leap through forests until May 31, when they started receding, NASA fire maps show.

While most of the wildfires in the Buner district were put out by June 4, at least three red dots appeared on the map as of June 5, indicting burning fires.

The maps showed that the wildfire in Swat’s Kabal which had spread to over a kilometer square of the area Saturday night, receded to around 0.30-kilometer square by Sunday noon.

Fire maps released by NASA showed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa peppered with red dots as of Sunday afternoon.

Buner

The first major wildfire was reported from Ilam and Gokund mountains mountain in Buner district, according to SAMAA TV.

Since then, wildfires have been reported in the Charzi valley, Katkala, and Kalil areas. As per the latest update on June 6, the fire is still raging at these points.

The local population lamented that the district administration failed to take prompt action when the fire erupted a fortnight ago. The locals, along with elders held a protest Saturday against the administration.

The fire has devastated plants that were planted by volunteers under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) government’s afforestation program called “Billion Tree Tsunami.”

Swat

In Swat, a major wildfire affected the local population four days ago in the Pathaney mountains in Mingora. Sporadic fires erupted across various points despite continuous efforts by rescue officials to control them.

According to Swat District Fire Officer Waseem Khan, fire in Abuha mountains in tehsil Barikot, Pathaney mountain in tehsil Babuzai, Seegram and Sarsenai mountains in tehsil Kabal, Kot mountains in tehsil Charbagh, Muradey mountain in tehsil Matta, have been put out.

However, rescue officials are still trying to extinguish fires in Karakar mountain in tehsil Barikot; Chamtelai, Bihar; Barhamputai mountains in tehsil Khwazakhela; and Deolai mountain in Tehsil Kabal, he added.

According to Waseem, the fire in Sarsenai area has damaged plants over 100 hectares, while forest over 15 hectares has been burnt.

He added that wildfire in Sultanus mountains has threatened native goats.

According to Swat Deputy Commissioner Junaid Khan, wildfires were reported at five points in the district. He said that a high-powered inquiry committee, with representatives from intelligence agencies, has been constituted to probe the cause of fire

He said the hot climate was the most likely cause but he didn’t rule out arson, adding that in case of deliberate mischief, those responsible would be sent to prison.

Pakistan Army, forest department, district administration, NGO Al Khidmat, and local population have been helping in the firefighting operations, he said.

Shangla

In Shangla, a major wildfire was reported in the Chakesar mountains three days ago. According to the rescue officials, almost 90% of the fire has been extinguished.

A woman and her three children were [burnt to death Friday as the fire in Chakesar mountain engulfed the family’s house[(https://www.samaaenglish.tv/news/40010045/mountain-fire-in-shangla-kills-a-woman-three-children) nearby, police officials said.

Shangla Deputy Commissioner Ziaur Rehman said the fire in Ali Jan Sar in tehsil Chakesar has been put out, while the fire in Sarsenai and Charbagh mountains is still raging. The locals along with rescue officials are trying to put it out.

He added that the funeral for the deceased woman and children was offered on Saturday and they have been laid to rest.

The provincial government would soon announce compensation for the family, Rehman said.

PM Shehbaz sends helicopters

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Sunday ordered the National Disaster Management Authority to deploy two helicopters to speed up the firefighting efforts in Swat.

The full aerial support will boost the efforts of Rescue 1122, district administration, and forest department to extinguish the fire,“ he said.

However, SAMAA TV’s Usman Khan reported that the KP government withdrew the request for helicopters on Sunday after the chief minister issued verbal orders to the chief secretary, who in turn informed the PM Office.

One of the helicopters owned by the KP government was used for transporting PTI chief Imran Khan from Peshawar to his Bani Gala residence in Islamabad.

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wildfire

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KP Wildfire

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