Huge forest fires threaten national park in Mekong Delta

Fires continue to destroy the forests of Tram Chim National Park in the Mekong Delta's Dong Thap province despite heroic efforts by firefighters to control the blazes.
Fires continue to destroy the forests of Tram Chim National Park in the Mekong Delta's Dong Thap province despite heroic efforts by firefighters to control the blazes.

The first fire started in the A1 forest zone on April 25. Firefighters fought for seven hours to stomp out the blaze but it sparked up again on April 26 and took more than one hour to bring back under control.

An estimated 200ha of indigo forest and pasture land burned, according to the park's fire prevention and fighting team.

While firefighters were striving to stamp out the A1 fire, another blaze broke out in the park's A2 zone on April 26. Heavy winds caused the fire to spread quickly.

"There are more than 1,100ha of indigo forests in the A2 zone and four areas are in close proximity to the fire," said deputy director of the park's management board Nguyen Van Hung.

"Hot and dry weather combined with strong winds have created favourable conditions for the fires to spread," he said.

Fires have sprung up in ten areas of the forest, he added.

Although more than 550 people, including police, soldiers and firefighters, were armed with 15 large-capacity water pumps and thousands of metres of pipes to fight against the fires, the blazes continued unabated.

"The fires just keep going. As soon as one fire is stamped out, another breaks out. We're exhausted," said Major-General Huynh Van Dap, head of the fire prevention and fighting team in the park's Hong Ngu area.

"Fire fighters are forced to get water from canals that are 500-1,000m away, making it difficult for them to fight the fires," he said.

"Tough terrain has made it difficult for fire trucks to gain access to the scene," he added.

Fires in the A2 area have been put out but there was still a high risk for them to break out again. Firefighters continued to work in the A1 area, said Hung.

The fires have threatened hundreds of species of birds, notably red-headed cranes which are listed as an endangered species in the world's red book.

An investigation has been planned to determine the cause of the fires.

The park faced several big fires in recent years, including blazes in 1996 and 2008 which burned 250ha and 332ha of forest and pasture land, respectively.

An interdisciplinary group of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs worked with Dong Thap province authorities on April 26 to discuss fire prevention and fighting tasks for the dry season.

According to the MARD's Forest Management Department, forests in the northern region have escaped the season's fire risks, while nine forests in the central, southern and Central Highlands regions still faced high fire risks, including forests in An Giang, Binh Dinh, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Binh Thuan and Gia Lai provinces./.

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