A thunderstorm accompanied by rain has brought cheer to forest officials who have been struggling for the past 20 days to put out fires in several forests, including the famous Similipal national park in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district.
The state, which used to report more than 1,800 fire points, including 100 major incidents, due to the constant rise in temperature in March, can now relax as most of these fires have been completely doused. The government was so worried that it had engaged nearly 3,000 officials to put out forest fires.
Regional chief conservator of forest, Baripada circle (Mayurbhanj) Prakash Chand Gogineni told The Telegraph: “It’s not humanly possible to douse all the fire points in a sanctuary like the Similipal whose area is around 2,750 sqkm. Between March 1 and March 15, fires were reported in 1,132 points in the sanctuary. While under Baripada division of the Similipal, 42 fire points were reported, 132 were reported in Karanjia, 132 in Rairangpur division, 284 in Similipal south wildlife region and 542 in Similipal north wildlife region.”
He said: “Due to incessant rain across the state, particularly in Mayurbhanj, Balasore and Keonjhar for the past 24 hours, all the fire points have been doused. At least on that front, we are relieved now.”
A devastating fire broke out in the Similipal national park and its periphery areas, the second largest biosphere of Asia, in 2021 causing extreme anxiety to state forest officials. The national park, which is home to 55 important animal species, including tigers and elephants, reported a massive loss of trees, particularly rare medicinal plants.
Officials say that if squally weather continues for another two days, there will be less chance of new fire points emerging for at least another month and things would be safe up to April end. The local meteorological centre in its forecast said: “Thunderstorms with lightning and gusty surface with speed reaching very likely to occur at one two places over the districts of Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Deogarh, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Gajapati, Ganjam, Kandhamal, Nuapda, Nabarangpur and Kalahandi.”
“The surface in the forest will remain wet and muddy. It would not be easy for forest fires to spread. Only we have to be careful in the month of May as the monsoon is likely to hit the state on June 10. After that, there will be no chance of forest fires. But we need to educate the masses not to cause man-made fires,” said a senior official.
Such was the relief brought by rain that forest officials in Umerkote in Nabarangpur district and Bangiriposhi in Mayurbhanj district were seen dancing on Saturday after it rained. The visuals of their dance have gone viral on social media.
Divisional Forest Officer, Chandaka Wildlife Division Mohd. Jameel told this newspaper: “There were a few fire points reported in the Chandaka division. The weather has certainly helped douse the fire. We are a bit relaxed.”
On the other hand, thunderstorms caused heavy damage in southern Odisha, particularly in the Koraput district.
Three deaths, including that of a four-month-old baby, were reportedly following a thunderstorm and lightning.
Hundreds of pucca houses were damaged. In the coastal belt, particularly in the Puri district, hundreds of acres of paddy were destroyed due to heavy rains.
“The paddy had ripened and was about to be harvested and stored. But suddenly the rain came and destroyed it,” said Ranka Bihari Das, 65, a farmer.