Nuclear free peninsula is on the agenda
Massive wildfires that have killed at least seven people in recent weeks were burning through pine forests in the mountains of northern India yesterday, including parts of two tiger reserves.
With dense black smoke billowing in the skies for kilometres, authorities were urging villagers to be on alert and tourists to avoid travelling to the Himalayan foothills, popular during the summer for their cooler temperatures.
Dozens of fires were spreading unpredictably in the states of Uttarakhand and neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, officials said.
“We are struggling to bring the situation under control,” forest officer Bhanu Prasad Gupta said in the state of Uttarakhand, according to Associated Press.
After state firefighters were unable for months to put out the fires, the Indian government sent air force helicopters over the weekend to drop water on blazes covering nearly 23 square kilometers of pine forests.
After areas were soaked from above, groups of villagers fanned out into the steaming jungle forests and used green-leafed branches to beat out the embers still glowing on the ground.
But the thick smoke and remote, mountainous terrain were making the job difficult for some 9,000 firefighters, army soldiers and forest guards deployed to battle the flames, Gupta said.
Nearby villages were asked to stay alert, but none has yet been asked to evacuate. Authorities set up 84 centres to receive news of new outbreaks.
Hundreds of tourists have abandoned plans to visit the popular hill towns of Ranikhet, Almora and Pauri after smoke reduced visibility on steep mountainous roads. During the scorching summer, hill resorts in Uttarakhand are a favourite weekend getaway for people in New Delhi, 400 kilometers to the south. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has pushed for a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, the official IRNA news agency reported. Rouhani met with visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye and said Iran seeks a world free of weapons of mass destruction, “especially nuclear” weapons. “Our demand is a world free of weapons of mass destruction, especially freeing the Korean peninsula and the Middle East from destructive weapons,” he said yesterday. Park said she has asked for Iran’s help in implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for the nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula. The remarks were aimed at North Korea, which has been hit with tough UN sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme. Park arrived in Tehran on Sunday for the first visit by a South Korean president to Iran since 1962. Rouhani said both sides agreed to increase their bilateral trade from the current $6 billion per year to $18 billion in the coming years. South Korea and Iran established diplomatic ties in 1962 but their heads of states have never held bi-lateral talks.