ASI in Dzukou Valley fire-fight team dies
The Nagaland government on Tuesday evening moved the ministry of home affairs seeking additional NDRF teams to join the ongoing fight to control the Dzukou Valley wildfire after an aerial survey during the day revealed the blaze was spreading to multiple locations because of strong winds.
The requisition for reinforcement was made on a day the NDRF lost one of its “fit and healthy” official, assistant subinspector Nongthombam Binoy Meetei. He was an integral part of the firefighting team from the Manipur side. He was staying at the base camp set up on Sunday to cut down trekking time to the affected areas in the picturesque valley located along the NagalandManipur border. The fire started on December 29 from the Nagaland side.
“The postmortem report is awaited. Meetei did not wake up for breakfast this morning. He was brought down and rushed to the Senapati hospital but to no avail. He was one of our best and had been actively participating in all the operations,” an NDRF official said.
Johnny Ruangmei, officer on special duty, Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority, told The Telegraph that they have requested the home ministry for three additional NDRF teams and the state government is also scaling up the number of its personnel from the police and homeguards, besides local volunteers, who are playing a key role in these operations with government personnel.
The requisition was made soon after a joint aerial survey conducted by the IAF, NDRF and the NSDMA.
The four choppers of the IAF will continue with their Bambi bucket (pouring water) operations in inaccessible areas while NDRF personnel will be accompanying air force personnel to further enhance the effectiveness of the exercise by getting specific information from its teams on the ground.
The NDRF has till now deployed seven teams to fight the fire, of which three teams are in Nagaland. However, reports from both sides suggest that the wildfire was spreading to fresh areas because of strong winds and dry conditions. On the Manipur side, the flames were visible on the eastern side of Mt Iso, an official said.
Those involved in the operations or monitoring it said that the weather is pretty rough at the top of the valley. “Very gusty wind and very cold, almost minus 2 degrees Celsius in the winter. We are operating in very rough weather but thankfully both the state governments, frontline firefighters and volunteers are very proactive and cooperative,” an official said.
Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio could not land in the valley owing to the rough weather and interact with the frontline personnel on Tuesday morning.
Rio later tweeted, “Made an aerial survey of the latest forest fire situation at Dzukou valley today. Seeing the tremendous joint efforts by all concerned to tackle the situation, I am hopeful that the fire will soon be doused. The destruction of Godgiven beauty and resources of the Dzukou valley is sad. I hope we will all strive to support the efforts of preserving and promoting the rich biodiversity of the valley and learn to live in harmony with nature.”
Rio was accompanied by one of his advisers Mmhonlumo Kikon, who is also a BJP national spokesperson. Kikon said a massive effort is being made jointly by all government agencies and Southern Angami Youth Organization (SAYO) to “contain the spread & stop the fire”.
Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh expressed shock and deep sorrow over the death of Meetei.
He was attending a foundation stonelaying function at Bishnupur Bazar when he conveyed the news to the gathering. He requested them to stand up and observe a minute’s silence as a mark of respect to the departed soul.
A resident of Luwangshangbam Maning Leikai in Imphal East district, Meetei was a committed officer, an official statement said.
“His dedication to duty and zeal for accomplishing objectives was exceptional. Sadly, on January 5 morning, he failed to wake up from sleep... He died in the line of duty serving his people. Binoy was a dedicated member of the group, which is currently camping at two different base camps braving the cold winter at high altitudes... His work and sacrifice for the State will ever remain as an inspiration to his fellow citizens,” the statement said.
At least 50 NDRF personnel were staying in the base camps along with over 50 SDRF and police and volunteers.
“If not controlled on time, Dzuko wildfire could create huge environmental impact destroying vast areas of forest cover, wildlife and their habitats and thousands of plant species having precious medicinal values,” Biren Singh said.
On Monday night, the Opposition Naga People’s Front in Nagaland too expressed its anguish over the ravaging wildfire at Dzukou Valley. The inferno cannot be considered a natural disaster but is a manmade fire that is causing a great harm not only to the beauty of the valley but also to our environment, the NPF said. It requested the chief minister to take all possible steps in containing the fire as well as to protect the valley.
While lauding Nagaland governor R.N. Ravi for promptly visiting the valley, the NPF also appreciated the Indian Air Force (IAF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Kohima deputy commissioner and superintendent of police, forest department, Southern Angami Youth Organization (SAYO) volunteers and others involved in helping douse the blaze.