Tuesday, June 3, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

One killed in Kasauli forest fire
Our Correspondent

Solan, June 2
A Nepalese daily wage earner, Khem Bahadur, died while Bhim and Ram Singh were seriously injured in a fire that broke out in the forest area around the Kasauli Air Force station last evening. The injured have been referred to the PGI in Chandigarh.

The fire damaged 15-20 km stretch of telephone cables of the Air Force station and the surrounding areas, hampering communication. The AOC-in-C, Ambala, reached Kasauli this morning to assess the ground situation.

Forest officials of Dharampur and Parwanoo, besides personnel of the Army, Air Force and police, have been battling the fire since last evening. The intense heat has caused a rise of at least 3-4 degrees in temperature, Mr Hitender Sharma, forest range officer, said.

The fire had spread to Dochi, Bajoltu and Shakri villages of the Garkhal-Kasauli panchayat. The steep terrain made it difficult to extinguish the fire which later spread towards Kasauli Club, the CRI and parts of the adjoining villages. The haze which had spread in the area had intensified as people tried to collect dry pine needles.

Fire engines from Parwanoo, Solan, Chandimandir, Ambala and Chandigarh have been pressed into service. The cantonment barrier at Kasauli which received a call from the Air Force station around 2 am sent its lone fire engine for controlling the fire. Residents told The Tribune that the smoke entered their houses and caused suffocation. The temperature had also gone up.

Fire in the area comprising dense pine plantation was spreading fast due to the presence of dry pine needles and strong wind. The intensity of the fire was so severe that efforts to control it were proving ineffective. By 5 pm, the fire had spread all over Upper Mall, endangering houses and the Doordarshan Kendra building. The fire had not been controlled till the filing of this report.

Additional forces and fire-fighters have been rushed in from Chandimandir, 14 GTC and 21 Punjab Regiment, Dagshai. The Air Force authorities have shifted ammunition from the base. The families of defence personnel have also been shifted to safer places. The house of artist Vimaan Sunderam located on Upper Mall had been damaged in the fire that had spread to the adjoining areas, including Dharampur.


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