India fires: Rainfall douses deadly blazes in Uttarakhand

Smoke coming out from the forest at Mandakhal near Pauri in Uttrakhand (02 May 2016) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The latest fires broke out a month ago, but intensified in recent days with more than 400 burning simultaneously

Rain in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand has extinguished forest fires which killed at least six people and destroyed more than 1,900 hectares of woodland, officials say.

Fires in the state have persisted over the last four weeks despite the efforts of the army and air force.

But heavy showers over the last 48 hours have put nearly all of them out.

From mid-February, Uttarakhand has witnessed nearly 1,800 forest fires as temperatures soared across the country.

The Uttarakhand Department of Disaster Management said on Thursday that all fires had been extinguished in hill forestry areas of the state and there were now no fires in any of the state's 13 districts.

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The latest fires intensified in recent days with more than 400 burning simultaneously. Many people have been injured.

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Media captionAerial footage earlier this week showed the extent of the fires

They did not hit Himalayan tourist towns, but villagers complained that smoke affected air quality and visibility.

Officials say the reason why fires have been so widespread this year is because the forest has been exceptionally dry as a result of low rainfall.

The fires come as India suffers one of its worst droughts in years. The government says 330 million are now affected by water shortages.

The Uttarakhand fires in numbers

  • 1,218 separate fire incidents in the last month
  • 427 simultaneous fires have burned since the weekend
  • 1,900 hectares (4,700 acres) of forest destroyed

Image copyright EPA

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Image copyright EPA
Image caption The fires had intensified in recent days

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