After 30 hours of frantic efforts, the fire at the Sundarban’s (East Forest Range) Sharankhola Range was extinguished around 5:00pm yesterday.

The fire service officials, forest department members, community patrol group (CPG) volunteers, and locals jointly conducted operations to douse the fire that broke out on Monday noon.

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The authorities, however, were yet to confirm the damage caused by the fire.

According to locals, at least five acres of forest were destroyed in the Daser Varani area inside the forest because of the fire.

On February 8 this year, three decimals of forest land were gutted by another fire in Chandpai Ranch of the forest. In the last 20 years, at least 25 cases of fire were reported in the Sundarban.

Locals expressed anger and frustration over the one-after-another fire cases inside the forest.

One such local named Afzal, of Rasulpur village adjacent to the forest, said, “Sundarban is like our mother. We depend on the forest for our survival. These fires are hurting us terribly.

“The reasons behind the fires are never clearly said to the people. Alongside the trees and animals inside the forest, we are also hurt by the fires. The authorities need to be more careful to avoid such incidents.”

Another local named Fazlu Sheikh said the fire service was informed about the fire as soon as they saw the smoke. However, it took a long time to douse the fire because it was initiated in a deep forest and away from the locality.

Contacted, Golam Sarwar, deputy assistant director of Fire Service and Civil Defense in Bagerhat, said there was no fire inside the forest after they called down their operations.

“There was no visible fire. Still, if there is any fire left, and the forest department informs us, we will make arrangements for watering the area again tomorrow.”

Mohammad Belayet Hossain, divisional forest officer (DFO) of the Sundarban (east forest division), said, “We were able to put out the fire with the help of the fire service. Even then, if there is any dormant fire, that will be extinguished. If necessary, the cooperation of the fire service will be taken again. Forest patrols have been intensified in the area where the fire broke out.”

A three-member probe committee was formed to identify the reason behind the fire, he added.

He also assured that legal actions would be taken against the accused if the report of the probe committee finds out that the fire was man-made.

 

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