Rain respite for fire-ravaged Uttarakhand

The rains couldn't have come at a better time for fire-ravaged Uttarakhand. A thousand prayers went up silently on Tuesday as some of the most badly affected districts -Pithoragarh, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi -received rain, as predicted correctly by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) on Monday , helping douse numerous flames and nipping in the bud many more.
Hit hard by jungle blazes which since February 15 have swallowed 3,466 hectares of forests across Uttarakhand that now has over 1100 men and women battling the inferno, the Met centre here recorded 3 mm of rainfall in Chamoli and 1 mm in Pithoragarh, enough to come as divine aid for fire-fighting operations that have often seemed very inadequate and weak. Uttarkashi and Pauri districts also received showers.
This came even as new incidents were reported from drier parts of the state. Additional chief secretary S Ramaswamy said, “There were 40 places affected on Tuesday . We controlled 26. Besides, 121 fire incidents were reported on Tuesday and the fire-fighters managed to control 95 of them.“
Bringing further respite for the state administration and the people, humidity surged, too, due to the wet conditions -going up from 46% to 55% in Dehradun. The city in the afternoon record 36 degrees Celsius, plummeting 4 degrees below the record April high of 40 just on Monday . “There will be more moisture in the atmosphere which will prevent the fire from spreading,“ said a forest official. “We couldn't have asked for more.“ In Mukteswar, the relative humidity was 64%, surging from 39% on Monday .
A relieved Santosh Badoni, deputy secretary , disaster management department, said, “The rainfall has really helped everybody , especially those who have been involved in round-the-clock fire-fighting operations. Due to consistent dry spell, there was absolutely no moisture in the soil and atmosphere. That only helped the fire spread.“
In more happy news, the Met office said rainfall will gradually cover the whole state by Friday .“All the districts will experience light rainfall in the next few days. Even active forest fires that are posing a great challenge to our fire fighters will be controlled,“ said Singh.
Four people have died in fire-related incidents in Uttarakhand's forest areas so far. The unofficial count may be higher. Three deaths were reported on Monday itself. A constable died during a firefighting operation in Chamoli, a youth injured earlier in the fire died in Uttarkashi and an elderly woman district succumbed to burn injuries in Bageshwar.

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