A forest fire has been raging for nearly 40 hours in the hills of south Mizoram and has affected towns and villages of two neighbouring districts, Lunglei and Lawngtlai, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
The Indian Air Force, on request from the state government, deployed two Mi-17V5 helicopters on Sunday, in order to help put out the blaze. Firefighters of the Mizoram government and Assam Rifles, Border Security Force personnel and local volunteer groups have also been engaged in the process. Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga thanked the Air Force for its help.
The fire started around 7 am on the outskirts of Lunglei town, the public relations department of Mizoram government said in a statement on Sunday. It has so far spread to uninhabited forest areas surrounding the town and has affected more than 10 village council areas within the town, the department said. No casualty or major loss of life has so far been reported.
Social media users took to Twitter to share photos and videos of the fire.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation, but there were certain reasons to believe that it was a manmade one, Lunglei Additional District Commissioner Pu M Misael said.
Lawngtlai Additional District Commissioner Marilyn Rualzakhumthangi said that the fire consumed 12 houses and livestock perished, though human casualties have not been reported so far, according to The Indian Express.
The districts of Aizwal and Lunglei were among 29 most fire-prone districts in India, Down To Earth reported, citing the Forest Fire Disaster Management 2014 report prepared by the National Institute of Disaster Management. Lunglei itself recorded 13,453 fire incidents between 2003 and 2016, according to a report released by the Union Environment Ministry, along with the World Bank in 2018.
The practice of jhum cultivation – slash and burn or shifting cultivation – collection of non-timber forest produce, burning farm residues and clearance of land for various purposes are among the major reasons of forest fires in Mizoram, according to Down To Earth.