Bhubaneswar: Even after more than a week a forest fire continued to rage in Similipal National Park and Tiger Reserve in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district on Thursday and spread to newer areas. According to reports, one-third of the Similipal forest division has been gutted in the forest fire so far as flames have devoured eight out its 21 ranges.Also Read - Two Minor Siblings Killed by Mentally Unstable Man After He Set Them on Fire

However, the Odisha government on Wednesday that there was no loss of life in the Similipal Tiger Reserve fire. It was not clear from a statement issued by the Chief Minister’s Office what the authorities meant by “no loss of life” – humans or animals. Also Read - 1 Dead After Fire Breaks Out at Factory in Delhi's Pratap Nagar

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik during a review meeting also said that large trees remained unaffected, and the fire has been brought under control. Also Read - 6 Dead, Several Injured in Blast at Firecracker Factory Near Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu

Patnaik reviewed the fire situation at Similipal National Park a day after Union Environment, forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar sought a report on the devastating fire at the Park, one of the major biospheres in the country.

Local people said that large animals such as tigers, elephants, deer and bears could escape the blaze by shifting to unaffected areas, but reptiles died and many valuable trees including medicinal plants were destroyed in the fire.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Sashi Pal is present at the spot and monitoring the situation.

“The intensity of the fire inside the National Park is high because of the hot climate in Mayurbhanj district. Extra precautions are being taken to regulate it,” Pal told reporters at Baripada, the district headquarters.

As many as 1,000 people including forest officials, locals and volunteers have been engaged in disconnecting the fire line in order to stop the spread of fire to newer areas, an official said adding that 40 vehicles and 240 blowers are being used for the purpose.

The core area of the tiger reserve remains unaffected, said Dr J D Pati, Deputy Director of the Similipal Tiger Reserve.

While the government is yet to ascertain the cause of the blaze, local people said that forest fire is an annual phenomenon in Similipal but the intensity is high this year.

“The fire is man-made. It is lit by people using dry leaves for collecting forest produces like Sal seeds, Mahua flowers and firewood, besides smuggling timbers and poaching,” a local volunteer claimed.

All fire points in Similipal are communicated by Forest Survey of India, Dehradun through satellite pictures, Pati said.

He said that 21 squads have been formed for each range of North and South Similipal and village level meetings are being conducted to create awareness among local tribal people to refrain from setting fire in Similipal, Pati said.

Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, had earlier tweeted: “Distressed to learn about the forest fire raging in Similipal Tiger Reserve from social media platform. Request the urgent attention of Shri @PrakashJavadekar and CM Shri@Naveen _Odisha on this alarming situation at one of the most important biosphere reserves of the country.”

Responding to his tweet, Union minister Javadekar posted: “I have ordered officers to take immediate action and report to me.”

Mayurbhanj royal family scion Akshita M Bhanja Deo has also expressed concern over the situation.

Union MSME Minister Pratap Sarangi tweeted: “Similipal is burning and it’s not a good sign for Asia. Mayurbhanj needs national and international’s media attention as its cause is genuine. Sad, not any leading national media is covering the story of Similipal since fire broke a week ago.”

(With inputs from PTI)