Images of India : Shimla forest fires threat to world heritage railway site…

ShimlafiresWildfires burn through a jungle near the hill town of Shimla in Himachal Preadesh perilously close to the famous British-era railway track. Dubbed the “toy train” and dotted with tiny wooden stations, the narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla railway is a UNESCO world heritage site attracting thousands of tourists each year. Shimla railway, which opened in 1903, follows a scenic 96-kilometre route that includes 103 tunnels, travelling on a winding track from the town of Kalka up to Shimla, the former summer capital during British rule. Fires sweeping through pine-forested areas drew closer to at least three towns across the northern state, famed for its snowy peaks and flowing rivers, while a boarding school was forced to evacuate. Usually mild lower parts of the state have seen temperatures soar to 42 C, with the capital Shimla hitting 29.8 C, about six degrees higher than normal. Fires have also been raging in the forests of neighbouring Uttarakhand state. It was unclear what started the fires but their intensity has been blamed on a severe drought gripping central and western India. The country is suffering its worst water crisis in years, with the government saying about 330 million people are suffering from drought after the last two monsoons failed.