THRISSUR: The wildfire that claimed three lives at Kottambathur in Desamangalam on Sunday was a man-made disaster, according to forest officials. The fire that had raged for several hours since Sunday noon was finally doused in the wee hours of Monday. The area is still covered in smoke as tree stumps and bur nt trees are smouldering. After the postmortem examination at the Thrissur Medical College Hospital, the mortal remains of the three forest watchers — Divakaran, Velayudhan and Sankaran — were kept at Poongode forest station on Monday. A large number of local people and officials paid their last respects to the personnel, who sacrificed their lives for the wild.
A case has been registered at Poongode forest station and an investigation is on, said Peechi Wildlife Warden N Rajesh. “In 95 per cent of the cases, wildfires are caused by activities of human beings, either knowingly or unknowingly. Here, the forest officials and tribal watchers along with the temporary staff had made the fire control line to avoid fires spreading to the nearby tribal colonies. But this particular land of about 475 hectares leased to Hindustan Newsprint Limited has remained untouched for years. Since it had remains of huge trees that were cut earlier by the company, the fire spread at high speed, beyond the calculation of even the expert tribal watchers,” said Rajesh.
Only a detailed investigation would reveal what actually sparked the fire in the region, he said. “A team of nine temporary staff and seven forest watchers were present at the place during the incident. Though the fire has been brought under control, we have deployed two teams there to avoid any more outbreaks,” he said. Fire control lines, which are strips of forest land left without any dry grass or anything that catches fire, play a major role in stopping wildfires from spreading. As per the reports, 40 per cent of the 475-hectare land was destroyed in the fire on Sunday, but unfortunately it claimed three lives.
Though it is forest land, the particular area does not have the presence of any big wild animals like elephants. Yet, smaller ones like wild boars and jungle cats could have been present, but they must have run away as soon as the fire began, said an official. The department will carry out a survey to assess the scale of destruction caused by the fire. Earlier in the day, forest officials had said the HNL authorities were responsible for making necessary arrangements to prevent fires, but hadn’t done so, which led to the death of the three personnel.
Neighbour dies While
Divakaran and Velayudhan died on the spot, Sankaran was pulled out of the burning forest and rushed to Jubilee Mission Medical College Hospital in Thrissur, but he succumbed soon. Meanwhile, another man, who was the neighbour of Velayudhan and Sankaran, collapsed on hearing the news and died on Monday. Kannangathu Veettil Ayyapan, 68, had been a heart patient for years.
Government announces L7.5 lakh each to kin of deceased
T’Puram: The state government has announced immediate financial assistance of D7.5 lakh each to the families of the three forest watchers who were killed in the forest fire in Thrissur on Sunday. The government will also consider giving a government job to one of the family members of the deceased. The government will examine whether there were lapses on the part of HNL Plantation in taking preventive steps against forest fire. A detailed investigation will be carried out into the situation that led to the forest fire. Necessary steps will be taken to avoid such incidents in the future, said Forest Minister K Raju. The minister said D7.5 lakh — D5 lakh from the government in addition to D2.5 lakh from the Periyar Tiger Reserve — is given as a temporary financial relief.
The government will bear the treatment cost and expenses of the funeral. Raju said necessary directives have been issued to the Chief Wildlife Warden to visit the place and coordinate the relief measures. “The fire has been brought under control,” said Raju, who is currently attending the national conference of state forest ministers in Gujarat. Divakaran K U, tribal watcher with Poongode forest station, and two temporary watchers — Velayudhan M K and Sankaran V A — died while trying to douse forest fire at HNL Plantation under the Vadakkancherry Poongode forest station limits.