PM orders army to join Loei firefight

PM orders army to join Loei firefight

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday ordered the army to deploy a helicopter to fight fires in Loei's Phu Kradueng National Park, after hearing the province could not afford the 3.5-million-baht cost to airlift tractors.

Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree said an Mi-17 helicopter will join firefighting efforts today on a 15-hour mission to transport heavy machinery to build a firebreak.

The army was ready to assist the firefighting operation but had been waiting for the province to be declared a disaster zone, when it would become eligible for free military aid, he said.

Gen Prayut's urgent order came after provincial governor Chaiwat Chuenkosum asked the army for two helicopters and machinery to build a firebreak and carry water into the mountainous area on Feb 18. The blaze has been raging since Feb 10, with firefighters hampered in their efforts by difficult-to-access terrain.

After the army stated the operation would cost 3.5 million baht, authorities instead mustered 200 volunteers to disassemble the heavy machines and carry the parts up the mountain.

Elsewhere, bushfires raging on Bantad Mountain in Trat province shrouded much of the province in smog yesterday. Fires in the mountainous area on the Thai-Cambodian border have spread across Bo Rai, Muang and Klong Yai districts, where communities have been suffering the effects of suffocating smoke for the past six days.

Trat's acting provincial governor, Pol Sub Lt Pichian Limwangyoo, said firefighters were hampered by land mines laid on the mountain.

Monton Sudprasert, chief of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, said the central provinces of Nakhon Nayok and Prachin Buri had suffered bushfires last week. In Nakhon Nayok, over 1,000 rai of forest in Muang and Ban Na districts was gutted, while in Prachin Buri fire scorched 450 rai in Khao Yai National Park.

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