Three labourers killed in forest fire in Maharashtra's Gondia

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(Eds: With updates) Gondia, Apr 9 (PTI) Three labourers died and two others were seriously injured while dousing a fire that broke out in the Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) in Gondia district of Maharashtra, a forest department official said on Friday.

Field Director and Conservator of Forest, Navegaon- Nagzira Tiger Reserve, M Ramanujam, in a press release said, the fire was started by unidentified persons at around 11.30 am on Thursday in compartments 97 to 100 (territorial units of a forest) in Nagzira and Pitezhari areas of the reserve.

He said 50 to 60 forest staff, including officers and labourers, were engaged in dousing the flames which were largely controlled by 5 pm.

However, due to strong winds, the fire spread again and three forest labourers died and two others were seriously injured after getting caught in the blaze, the release said.

The deceased were identified as Rakesh Madavi (40), Rekchand Rane (45) and Sachin Shreerange (27), it said.

The injured, identified as Vijay Maraskolhe (40) and Raju Sayyam (30), were sent to a Nagpur hospital for treatment late Thursday night and are in critical condition, it added.

The statement also said a case has been registered against unidentified persons in connection with the incident and an investigation was underway.

On Friday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the deceased, while another Rs 5 lakh each will be raised from contributions by elected representatives of the area, NGOs and NNTR, Ramanujam said.

On Friday morning, some villagers protested at the forest department office in Sadak Arjuni, but they were pacified by local authorities and police, after which bodies were taken away by kin for last rites, officials said. PTI COR CLS RSY BNM NP NP