Major forest fires raged across Uttarakhand even as two Indian Air Force (IAF) choppers have begun spraying water to extinguish the flames.Indian Air Force’s MI-17 helicopters that were being used to douse raging forest fires in Uttarakhand’s Bhimtal and Pauri have had to return to base due to thick smoke and near zero visibility.

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Since the beginning of forest fire incidents in the state in early February this year, 922 incidents have occurred so far killing six people including three women and a child, in separate incidents, injuring seven and blighting 1890.79 hectares of green cover, principal conservator of forest (Research) BP Gupta told PTI.

Rudraprayag forest division is taking the army’s help for fire-fighting operations especially along the highways, Gupta said. Chamoli, Pauri, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh, Almora and Nainital are the worst-affected districts, he said.uk1

Enough funds have been made available to all affected districts besides required personnel and equipment to deal with any situation, Raj Bhawan officials said in Dehradun yesterday.

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“One MI-17 chopper has been stationed at Bhimtal near Nainital which is being loaded with water collected from water bodies in the area. It will spray water over affected areas from tomorrow,” Chief Secretary Shatrughna Singh said on Saturday. Another IAF chopper has been sent to Pauri.

Three NDRF teams have been deployed in Almora, Gauchar and Pauri and one team of SDRF in Nainital to extinguish the flames, Principal Conservator of Forest B P Gupta said.