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Forest fire engulfs several stretches

The Hindu , Sunday, March 01, 2009
Correspondent : Staff Reporter
DINDIGUL: Even as forest officials announced that they had made Kodaikanal hill a ‘zero-fire’ zone, fresh forest fire has engulfed several stretches on lower hill causing much damage in the forest in the last 24 hours and posing a grave threat to fauna. Strong wind and dry plants and leaves owing to scorching summer have fuelled the fire in all directions. Initial efforts to douse the fire were in vain.
At present, flames engulfed forests near Pannaikadu, a steep slope of forests on lower Palni hills stretching between Kannivadi and Chitharevu and eastern side of Pachalur hills.
Fire quickly spread to slopes and moved towards the tip of the hill at a dangerous speed. The fire broke out on Friday night as hilly region sizzled in temperature that climbed up substantially. Billowing smoke camouflaged the sky and cinders floated in the air, making the dousing operation tough.
While forest officials maintained that the fire destroyed dead wood and grass, environmentalists complained that valuable plants and old trees were gutted. Fauna was fully threatened, they added. “We have no mechanism to measure the quantum of fauna loss. Destruction of grasslands on declivity of the hill will force Indian guars to starve.”
Residents living near Athoor and Narasingapuram witnessed migration of large population of birds from the firing area. Forest officials along with local people have been struggling to extinguish the fire.