The Nagaland authority on Saturday expressed hope that the raging week-long wildfire in the famed Dzukou Valley on its border with Manipur will be brought under control within two days, with the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters, over 300 volunteers and personnel of many departments continuing their efforts to extinguish the inferno at the biodiversity hotspot.
Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority's Officer on Special Duty, Johnny Ruangmei said that the heavy gusty winds have affected the officials' effort to tame the fire but we expect that it would be fully brought under control by Monday, as the blaze has been contained partially.
"The IAF helicopters on Saturday sprayed 8 tonnes of water on the wildfire. Over 300 volunteers accompanied by the personnel of various departments and organisations were battling against the raging fire," Ruangmei told IANS over phone.
He said that the army, state police, state and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Forest Department, volunteers of Southern Angami Youth Organisation (SAYO), accompanied by the local people and NGOs, are jointly making fire lines in the Valley to break off the link between the blaze and the forest.
The disaster management officials said that as the fire continued in multiple pockets and hillocks, they are yet to assess the damage and natural destruction of the valley.
IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said that following a requisition by Nagaland, the Eastern Air Command in Shillong had initially deployed a Mi-17V5 helicopter to check the wildfire.
"After assessment of the extent of fire, the IAF is deploying three more helicopters equipped with Bambi Bucket. C-130J Hercules aircraft of the IAF airlifted 9 tonnes load for fighting the fire including 48 NDRF personnel from Guwahati to Dimapur on Friday night," Wing Commander Singh told IANS over phone from Shillong.
Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, who had conducted an aerial survey to take stock of the wildfire that has caused huge damage since it broke out on Tuesday, on Saturday tweeted that the NDRF HQ has now deployed 60 personnel at the wildfire site at the Dzukou Valley. Also two helicopters equipped with Bambi bucket have been deployed to fight the wildfire.
"Thanks to Hon'ble HM @AmitShah ji and @DrJitendraSingh and all concerned for the swift response," he added.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday called Manipur Chief Minister and discussed the situation over phone.'
"Amit Shah Ji has assured all the necessary assistance from the Home Ministry to contain the situation at the earliest," Singh said.
The Manipur government has also requested the NDRF and the army to help control the wildfire that has spread to its Senapati district.
In a series of tweets, tagged to the Prime Minister's Office, the Manipur Chief Minister said: "The wildfire that broke out at Dzukou valley has spread quite extensively and caused serious damage on this part of mountain range.
"The fire has already crossed Mount Iso, the highest peak of Manipur. If the wind direction is going to the southern side, there is a high possibility of entering in the thickest forest called Koziirii in Manipur. Need help."
Nagaland Governor R. N. Ravi, accompanied by Kohima district officials including Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police as well as members of the local NGOs, had visited the Dzukou Valley.
According to a statement, the Governor urged the state government to immediately frame appropriate SOPs including Satellite Based Real Time Early Warning System to prevent recurrence of such a disaster.
The Dzukou valley, 30 km from Kohima, also is a sanctuary for the endangered Blyth's tragopan - Nagaland's State Bird - and other species of birds and animals.The iconic valley, situated at an altitude of 2,452 metres above the sea level, is a popular tourist spot and also famous for its seasonal flowers and biodiversity. Often caught in a boundary dispute between Manipur and Nagaland, it also has been prone to wildfires.
Members of the SAYO, which run an adventure-based conservation programme, tackled such fires in many cases earlier. In 2006, the wildfire affected a 20-km stretch of the southern part of Dzukou valley.