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Fire destroys several hectares of forests in Uttar Pradesh

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Agra: A fire in the Keetham wildlife sanctuary in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh destroyed several hecatres of forest and killed birds, reptiles and rodents, a forest officer said on Saturday.

“Four to five hectares of forest cover appears to have been lost” in the fire that broke out on late Friday night, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DFO) Anil Patel told IANS.

He said he suspected sparking from an electrical line to be the cause of the fire which was put out in a “couple of hours”.

With an area of about four sq km, Keetham or Soor Sarovar wildlife sanctuary is home to local and migratory birds, reptiles, jackal, mongoose and hare. It’s located along the Agra-Delhi national highway, about 175 km from the national capital.

Officials said the fire was first noticed by a forest guard about 9.30 p.m. on Friday.

He then called the fire brigade.

Efforts to limit the blaze did not succeed due to shortage of water and narrow paths, officials said.

Local villagers joined the fire fighting operations.

Patel said there will be an investigation as to what caused the fire.

Keetham lake, which gives the wildlife sanctuary its name, is a vital source of water for the Mathura oil refinery.

The sanctuary acts as a green buffer between the refinery and the world famous Taj Mahal.

It’s a haven of reptiles, specially pythons. A bear rescue centre and an elephant rescue centre are also located witin the sanctuary.

There have been about 10 devastating fires in Keetham in the last five years.

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