Massive fire breaks out at Rajasthan's Sariska Tiger Reserve

Sariska Tiger Reserve
(Left) The IAF carries out Bambi Bucket operation to douse the fire, (right) file photo of a female tiger spotted in the Sariska forest. AFP

Jaipur: Over 200 people and two Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service to control a wildfire that spread over 10 sq km of Rajasthan's Sariska Tiger Reserve, officials said on Tuesday.

By Tuesday night, the fire shrunk to five or six square kilometres, the officials added.

The blaze had started on Sunday evening and was brought under control on Monday. That evening, a few hours later, it flared again and continued through Tuesday.

The Forest Department asked people of nearby villages not to enter the forest. The officials said no tiger is stuck in the affected area and their movement is being monitored.

The Sariska reserve in Alwar district has 27 tigers and hosts several other species of animals, they added. The air operation by IAS choppers was halted at night and will resume on Wednesday morning, D N Pandey, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, told PTI.

He said a team will carry out the assessment of the affected area on Tuesday night. "We are hopeful of controlling the fire tomorrow," he said. Meanwhile, CM Ashok Gehlot tweeted that efforts are on to control the fire. "The state and central governments are working in coordination. Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force joined the task of extinguishing the fire today. This fire has come under control to a large extent and I am sure it will be brought under control by tomorrow," he tweeted. "It is a matter of relief that no loss of life or loss of wildlife has been reported," he added.

Earlier looking at the situation, the district administration sought air assistance from the IAF, which deployed two Mi-17 V5 helicopters to control the fire.

Sariska Field Director R N Meena said the forest staff, nature guides and local people are engaged in efforts to control the fire but they are facing difficulties due to hilly terrain, he said.

District Forest Officer (Sariska) Sudharshan Sharma had said the helicopters made eight sorties till Tuesday evening.

"The area under fire is at a height due to which there are difficulties in firefighting," he said. The officer said the fire spread due to dry grassland and bamboo trees.

People in Baletha, Prithvipura, Nayawas and Bhatyla villages have been asked to take precautions and avoid entering the forest. The fire spread in Rodkela, Narandi, Kalakadi, Katighati, and Naharsati area of the Reserve.

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