ISLAMABAD: Though the exact cause of the wildfire in Margalla Hills could not be ascertained, the officials at the Capital Development Authority (CDA) have said that the blaze near Loi Dandi could have erupted due to “sizzling heat” and subsequently spread to an area of 3km due to strong winds.

“Although the reason for the fire eruption [on Friday night] could not be identified, it seems that the fire erupted because of sizzling heat. It is normal that the dry bushes catch fire due to high temperature,” the CDA spokesperson said.

It was the first forest fire during the current season, the officials said, adding that the blaze seemingly started due to extreme heat, as initially, the dry grass caught fire which subsequently turned into a big wildfire, engulfing Loi Dandi, Ratta Hottar, and Pir Sohawa areas.

It took almost 150 firefighters, including volunteers, to put off the fire after an hours-long effort which proved successful around 1am. Spread over 12,605 hectares, the Margalla Hills National Park witnesses many fire incidents every summer season, particularly from April to July.

Officials say fire spread to 3km area before almost 150 rescuers extinguished it

According to the CDA, it has set up several pickets and deployed its officials to patrol the area to prevent such incidents. Last year the capital administration imposed a ban on barbecues, smoking, bonfires, burning, littering, and carrying flammable items along with tree cutting in the hills at the request of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board and the Ministry of Climate Change.

Meanwhile, on the instructions of CDA Chairman Muhammad Ali Randhawa, the construction and repair work of the one window facilitation centre has been completed. Its hours have also been extended from 9am to 9pm so that all possible facilities could be provided to the citizens.

According to a statement, more desks have also been set up at the facilitation centre as well as special information counters for the convenience of citizens. The process of digitisation of the CDA record has also been started to ensure swift disposal of complaints and provision of all facilities to the citizens under one roof.

CDA chairman visits nursing college

In another development, Chaudhary Muhammad Ali Randhawa visited the Capital Nursing College on Saturday. During the visit, the CDA chief directed the engineering wing to complete the construction and repair work of the Capital Nursing College building at the earliest. He also directed the outsourcing of the janitorial services of Capital Nursing College. He also issued instructions to take steps for the installation of a solar system at the college.

Heatwave grips twin cities

Meanwhile, a heatwave gripped the twin cities as the temperature soared to 39 degrees Celsius on Saturday, with the Met Office warning that another hot spell was expected from May 23.

The district administration is taking various measures to save people from having heatstroke. Deputy Commissioner Dr Hassan Waqar Cheema has asked the administration to establish camps to save citizens from heatstroke.

“The camps will be set up in different areas of the garrison city from Sunday. These camps will be installed in Shamsabad Park, Kutchery Chowk, Raja Bazaar, Saddar as well as Pirwadhai bus stand,” the deputy commissioner said while talking to Dawn.

He said chilled water, fans, coolers and first aid medicines would be made available in these camps.

He said the Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation and Civil Defence volunteers would be deputed in the camps from 12 noon till evening.

The deputy commissioner said teams had been formed in the district to check whether schools were observing the new timings from 7am to 11:30am or not.

He said pamphlets would be distributed among people advising them about steps they should take to protect themselves from heatstroke, adding that the district administration would also ensure all heatstroke patients were provided medical care at the District Headquarters Hospital, Tehsil Headquarters Hospital and all the union council-level health facilities.

According to the weather advisory, heatwave conditions are likely to develop over most parts of the country, especially over Punjab and Sindh from May 21 to May 27.

Day temperatures are likely to remain four to six degrees Celsius above normal in Sindh and Punjab from May 21 to 23 and from six to eight degrees Celsius above normal from May 23 to 27.

Day temperatures are likely to remain four to six degrees Celsius above normal in Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan from May 21 to May 27.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2024

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