Three districts in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat have been declared disaster zones due to fire in the vast Khuan Khreng peat swamp forest.
Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Bunyamanee on Thursday visited the province to follow up on the fire situation in the forest. He told local authorities to declare Chian Yai, Hua Sai and Chalerm Phrakiat districts disaster zones so that an emergency budget could be allocated to help victims there.
Three villages in tambon Karaket and tambon Khao Phrabat of Chian Yai districts were seriously affected. Local residents were evacuated. About 60 of them suffered respiratory problems and about 20 developed severe symptoms.
The ongoing fire began on Tuesday and covered about 400 rai of the peat swamp forest. Local authorities believed the fire was man-made.
Varawut Silpa-archa, minister of natural resources and environment, on Thursday ordered forest and park firefighters from other regions to help officials at the southern peat swamp forest.
Atthapol Charoenchansa, director-general of the Royal Forest Department, said the Khuan Khreng peat swamp forest covered 250,883 rai in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung and Songkhla provinces and was a large wetland in the central part of the South.
Eighty-eight fires had been reported in the forest this year and destroyed 4,968 rai there, he said.
The latest fire expanded from farmland in the vicinity of the forest and was difficult to control because of the presently low level of local water and strong winds, Mr Atthapol said.