Military choppers kept ready to meet any emergency

Authorities mobilised hundreds of personnel from different departments to fight the wildfire in Tirumala forest ranges, but their efforts remained unfruitful as the blaze spread to newer areas on Wednesday evening.

As the uncontrollable blaze spread through the forest, authorities blocked the roads leading to Papavinasanam and asked for aerial assistance from the Government to put out the forest fire, described as one of the fiercest in the recent times. Sources said, military choppers from Hakimpet in Hyderabad and from Chennai have been asked to be kept ready to scramble to Tirumala at a short notice to meet any kind of emergency.

Thousands of hectares of forest land have been reduced to ashes in the devastating fire that started Tuesday afternoon. At one stage the inferno threatened to engulf the prestigious wind mill project being set-up at the Kakulamanukonda on the fringes of the Tirumala town. However, change in direction of wind averted any damage to the project.

The TTD mobilised more than 1,000 personnel from the Forest Department, Fire Services, Vigilance and Security, Engineering, Water works and health workers besides local police for the fire-fighting operations.

The TTD authorities met in an emergency meeting and sought help from different departments including Navy, Coast Guard, Fire Services and NDMA. Source said the personnel of National Disaster Response Force from Arakkonam and the Director of Fire Services from Hyderabad were asked to rush to Tirumala.

The blaze began at Pullutlu on Tuesday afternoon in the vicinity of Papavinasanam at Tirumala and spread to Kakulamanukonda and surged towards Aavvacharikona, Kapilatheertham and Mangalam situated about eight kilometres from down Tirupati.

The quick spread of fire was because of the desiccated trees. An official put the loss over Rs. 80 crore given the endemic sandalwood vegetation found in the region. Meanwhile, the TTD Chief Vigilance and Security Officer G. Srinivas said it was only as a precautionary measure that restrictions were temporarily slapped on the movement of the pilgrims on both the footpaths leading to the town.

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