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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Sunday declared an emergency in view of a fire raging in the Koh-e-Suleman mountain range, in an area on the junction of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its tribal districts.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Minister for Local Government Faisal Amin Khan said three people had been killed and four others injured after being trapped in the fire.

He said personnel of the armed forces, rescue organisations and locals were working to contain the fire on the Balochistan side, with teams equipped with machinery on the KP side trying simultaneously to create access to the area in question.

The minister said that lack of water near the site and steep cliffs there were making it extremely difficult to approach the location.

He said chilghoza, pine and olive trees spread over 400 acres on the KP side had been badly affected as strong winds were increasing the intensity of the fire.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, he said, had issued instructions to all departments concerned for extending cross-border support to protect people and natural resources.

Meanwhile, on the directives of the Balochistan chief minister, the provincial chief secretary has established a task force led by Forest Secretary to launch rescue and relief operations and for extinguishing fire among pine trees in the Sherani district.

According to an official handout, the task force will coordinate with the federal and provincial departments and national and international donors for rehabilitation operations through appropriate channels.

The task force will also assess damage to properties and the loss of human lives, and submit reports on a daily basis.

Thousands of farmers have lost their only source of income due to the raging fire in the Musakail and Sherani districts of Balochistan, an area famous for the production of quality pine nuts.

The fire has engulfed an area of 30 square kilometres and every effort to bring it under control has failed due to lack of resources, proper equipment as well as timely response.

The fire was first reported 12 days ago and it spread quickly in the Koh-e-Suleman range, which is home to the world’s largest pine forest.

It has reduced millions of trees to ashes, inflicting loss of billions of rupees on the local communities dependent on the harvest of pine nuts for generations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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