Shirani forest fire spreads

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Located in the Koh-i-Suleman range, the Shirani forest covers a vast area. It straddles the north of Balochistan and the south of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Two tribes prevail in this region: Shirani Pakhtuns and Harifal. Shirani is a remote and isolated district of Baluchistan which doesn’t even have a bazaar. Most people live in rural areas. The forest consists of 26,000 acres.

Their main source of income is the trade-in pine nuts that are abundant in the forest. Another source is the remittances sent by Shiranis working in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Hell broke out in Shirani on May 18 when it caught fire. The inhabitants watched helplessly until the firefighting operations began. Some of them went to the mountains to tame the mammoth fire on themselves. Sadly, three were killed and the other three were seriously injured. Like the rest of Shirani’s helpless residents, Saadullah Shirani, who lives in Sharghali- a little village nestled at the foot of the mountain — saw the fire engulfing his pines and nuts. “My whole family is dependent on this business. Trade brings us half a million rupees a year,” he says, with a haze in his eyes.

Another resident, Sattar Shirani, said there was only one helicopter working to contain the fire. “The mind refuses to believe that Pakistan has no facilities to cope with a fire of this magnitude.”

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‘Rescue operation to contain fire’

The army and CF helicopters were engaged in the firefighting operation to protect the remaining pine and olive trees. “We are making every effort and using available resources to control fires and protect forests against further destruction,” Zhob Division Commissioner Bashir Ahmed Bazai told the media. However, he said, there was no change in the fire situation as a result of the strong winds despite all efforts, adding that the firefighting equipment and volunteers were also arriving from Lahore.

Shirani DC Ijaz Ahmed Jaffar said the relief camps were set up to move people from the burning areas to the camps. PDMA and the local government provided relief supplies, including tents, blankets, sheets, and food, at the camps, he said.

Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo and Corps Commander Lt Gen Sarfraz Ali arrived in Shirani district to review the situation. Mr. Bizenjo announced a compensation of Rs 1 million each for the families of the three persons who lost their lives and Rs 500,000 each for the wounded.

The Chief Minister also spoke to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif via video link, revealing that Iran would provide a special aircraft to help put out the forest fire.

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