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Narrow escape for devotees caught in forest fire in Uttarakhand

A stampede-like situation led shopkeepers in the temple complex to immediately shutter shops.

Screenshot 2024 05 06 090055DEHRADUN: Forest fires raging in parts of Uttarakhand took a turn for the worse on Sunday. The well-known Dunagiri temple complex in Dwarahat was engulfed in a fire.

In a few moments, the fierce flames forced the screaming devotees to run helter-skelter to save their lives. Some people were seen running with their children in their laps.

A stampede-like situation led shopkeepers in the temple complex to immediately shutter shops.

Located 16 km from Dwarahat city in Almora district, the ancient Dunagiri temple of Aadi Shakti Vaishno Mata saw a horde of devotees ready for Sunday morning darshan. A gust of wind carrying flames from the forest was seen approaching the temple. Soon, panic ensued, prompting all pilgrims to swiftly rush to exit. There were at least 35 devotees present in the temple, sources said.

In Uttarakhand’s rugged terrains, a vast swathe of forests is engulfed in fires. This season has already seen a staggering 886 incidents of forest fires, resulting in the death of five people and injuries to as many others.

Over 1,107 hectares of pristine forestland have been adversely impacted by these relentless blazes, government sources said.

These fires have not only destroyed valuable forest resources but also obliterated rare species of flowers that bloom once every 12 years.

Anup Sah, a member of the Uttarakhand Wildlife Board, told this newspaper that seeds of a rare species of a delicate flower, botanical name ‘Aechmanthera gossypina’ (Blue Trumpet Bush), have been lost. “In Nainital, several terraced fields have turned into ashes,” said Sah.

He described the forest fires as a disaster predominantly caused by human activity. “The nesting habitats of birds, insects, frogs, toads, leeches, and rare vegetation have been decimated.”

President of the Dwarahat Vyapar Mandal, Ashish Verma, said the ferocity of fires this season is the worst in two decades.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has directed chief secretary Radha Raturi to instruct district magistrates to continuously monitor the forest fire daily.

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