Tough to tackle forest fires when everyone in engaged in combating COVID-19: Foreign Minister

Two forest fire incidences were reported on 24 December when everyone was fighting against the spread of COVID-19 in the community in Thimphu. One incident was reported from above Bjimena school at around 12:30 pm while the second forest fire was reported from near Dechenphodrang Lhakhang at around 4:50 pm.

Though the fire at Bjimena was contained at around 2:30 pm, the forest fire that was reported from Dechenphodrang took the whole night to contain. The armed forces, DeSupps, and volunteers from Red Cross Society and others managed to contain the fire at 7:50 pm, however, the fire reignite twice and was contained fully in the morning of 25 December.

4.5 acres of land were lost to the fire at Bjimena while details on the land lost to fire at Dechenphodrang is yet to be ascertained.    

Foreign Affairs Minister, Tandi Dorji, during a televised press conference, highlighted on the hazard of forest fires.

He said, “This is a season where we are vulnerable to disasters like forest fire and windstorm. His Majesty is concerned over everything, and today, when the whole country is fighting against COVID-19; such incidences are taking place due to carelessness of few individual.”

Having to tackle forest fire at two locations was challenging for them as they do not have enough people to take care of all the incidences at one go, and giving them a tough time, he said.

Therefore, the government urges the people to be more careful and to be more vigilant when it comes to any work related to fire, he said, adding that parents should be responsible to not let their children play with fire.

He thank all the frontliners, including DeSuups, armed forces, civil servant, health official and other volunteers for sacrificing their time with their family and for supporting the government in ensuring safety to the people and nation as a whole.

“We thank the Je Khenpo and Dratshang Lhentshog for coordinating Kurim all over the country. This kind of support gives us the strength to work more and encourage us to keep doing no matter what,” Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said.

In addition, he said that everything is possible if everyone works hand in hand.

Meanwhile, the Thimphu police apprehended 4 people since the lockdown for the offence of breach of public order and tranquility. Police said that they were sent on surety, whereby they will be called after lockdown, and the case will be chargesheeted to the court. “We do not want to keep them in detention due to risk of community transmission,” the police said.

Grading of the offence is petty misdemeanor as per section 499 of the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004.

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