Kohima/Imphal, Jan 7 (IANS) The authorities in Nagaland on Thursday expressed confidence that the 10-day long wildfire in the famed Dzukou Valley on Nagaland-Manipur border would be fully doused within the next 24 hours even as the IAF, NDRF and other agencies continued their battle to tame the inferno.
Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority OSD Johnny Ruangmei said that the Indian Army, Indian Air Force (IAF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), paramilitary forces, state authorities, along with hundreds of volunteers and locals have been able to largely control the wildfire in the Dzukou Valley.
"The wildfire has been doused in most areas but gusty winds have taken the blaze to newer areas. We expect to fully control the blaze in the next 24 hours. The combined forces would study the exact ground situation on Friday and accordingly operations and the necessary steps would be taken," Ruangmei, who is supervising the operation, told IANS over phone from Kohima.
IAF sources said that four Mi-17V5 helicopters equipped with Bambi buckets sprayed water to check the wildfire on Thursday.
"Following the Nagaland government's requisitions, we had started our uninterrupted operations since last Friday (January 1)," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh told IANS.
An Assistant Sub-Inspector of the NDRF deployed to tackle the fire was found dead in his tent on Tuesday in northern Manipur's Senapati district bordering Nagaland.
Forest officials of Nagaland and Manipur said that they are yet to assess how much vegetation, flora and fauna have been destroyed due to the wildfire since December 29.
According to the officials, the inferno has destroyed much of the forest, seasonal flowers, flora and fauna and harmed the rich biodiversity of the valley, which is also a famous trekking site.
One of the 10 most beautiful places in the mountainous northeast India, the Dzukou valley, 30 km from Kohima, is also a sanctuary for the endangered Blyth's tragopan - Nagaland's state bird - and other species of birds and animals.
The iconic valley, situated at an altitude of 2,452 metres above the sea level, is a popular tourist spot and also famous for its seasonal flowers and biodiversity.
Often caught in a boundary dispute between Manipur and Nagaland, it has been prone to wildfires.
Members of the Southern Angami Youth Organisation (SAYO), which runs an adventure-based conservation programme, tackled such fires in many instances earlier. In 2006, the wildfire affected a 20-km stretch in the southern part of the valley.