Lucknow, May 2: A fire sweeping through Uttarakhands forests for nearly a week is threatening to singe Jim Corbett National Park.
Parts of the Corbett Tiger Reserve, north of the park, have already been destroyed, park authorities said.
The entire reserve forest is spread across 1318.54sqkm, of which the core area (520.82sqkm) forms the park. The rest of the forest houses the tiger reserve and the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary.
An officer said if the blaze is not contained by tonight, it might spread to the park.
We have sounded a high alert and a battle is on to check the spread of the blaze. We have stopped visitors bookings, park director Rajiv Bhartari told The Telegraph over phone.
He added that tourists already in the park have been urged to leave as soon as possible.
Over 120 fire fighters have been deployed on the banks of the Ramganga river, which stands between the northern part of the forests and the park.
Fire-fighting chemicals are being used to douse the blaze, officials said.
The Corbett Tiger Reserve, in the foothills of the Himalayas, is spread across the hilly districts of Nainital, Almora and Pauri Garhwal.
Almoras Tarikhet, Darahat, Chaukhutia and Mekiason villages have been the worst hit with over 100 big trees being gutted. Residents of 12 forest villages have been evacuated, Rajiv Soni, a forest officer, said.
The fire started on April 26 near the entrance to the forest along the northern boundary, known as the Durgadevi gate, and spread across Mandal valley.
Some residents of the reserve forests Dhikala area had set a heap of dry grass ablaze. The summer winds fanned it and it soon spiralled out of control. Yesterday, the fire began to advance towards the parks core area, the director of the park said.
The continuing blaze had raised the temperature in the hills.
The fire has also sparked panic among animals, which are moving to the southern side, an officer said. It is tough to douse the flames as they are aided by gusty winds.
The parks southern boundary fences the ecologically important Terai-Bhabar region.
The Bhabar tract consists mainly of gravel and boulders. The Terai region has several springs and streams and is home to endangered wildlife and birds.
Fires have been a regular problem in the park, usually occurring between early March and the start of monsoon sometime in June.
Every year, at the onset of summer, park authorities resort to controlled burning to eliminate the accumulation of inflammable material.