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Elephants flee from mountain blaze

A fire on the slopes of Kenya's tallest mountain is sending big game animals like elephants fleeing for their lives, as wildlife agents and British troops are fighting to put out several fires, officials said.

The flames have already consumed hundreds of acres of forest on Mount Kenya, said Paul Udoto, a spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service. The fire has covered the mountain in a haze of smoke.

Tourists staying in mountain lodges are safe, Mr Udoto said, but elephants are among the many animals fleeing.

"The elephants fled the area but they are still within the protected areas of the mountain," Mr Udoto said.

Firefighters said they have not come across any animal hurt or killed by the fire. Photos of the fire show small bursts of flame and thick white smoke hanging over the mountain's lower elevations.

Mount Kenya is the second-highest peak in Africa, at 5,199 metres.

"There's fires all over the place," said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of the group Save the Elephants. "It's because of the dryness. But I bet people are setting the fires ... accidental but human-generated."

Fires are also burning in the nearby Aberdare National Park. Mr Douglas-Hamilton said the fires will deprive animals of food and that he expects some to get caught in the flames.

Mount Kenya is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The UN organisation describes the region as "one of the most impressive landscapes of Eastern Africa, with its rugged glacier-clad summits, Afro-alpine moorlands and diverse forests".

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