Six people killed by fires as Ching Ming Festival sees spike in burnt offerings at family tombs

08 April 2019

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CHINA – Six Chinese people died in fires over the holiday weekend, when families traditionally burn offerings at their ancestral tombs, according to the fire and rescue bureau.

There were 3,064 fires reported across mainland China between Friday and Sunday, the bureau told state news agency Xinhua. It is not known where the six people died, or if they were firefighters.

The number of fires increased by around 50 per cent compared with the same period last year, when only 1,991 fires were recorded.

A bureau official blamed the recent dry weather and an increase in people burning offerings in the run-up to the Ching Ming Festival for the surge in fires over the past few weeks.

Over the weekend, more than 1,000 firefighters were sent to battle forest fires in three counties in Sichuan’s mountainous Liangshan prefecture, Xinhua reported.

The locations included the forest in Muli county where a huge blaze that killed 31 first responders a week ago had reignited, the Sichuan emergency management bureau said.

In Muli county, 1,004 emergency rescue personnel, including 350 firefighters, and members of the military were assessing the best strategy to combat the fire, the Liangshan prefecture forest and grassland fire prevention command office said on Monday.

Firefighters were also monitoring the fires in Sichuan’s Yuexi and Suining counties as a result of strong winds which made it too dangerous to tackle them at ground level.

The Fire and Rescue Bureau said that this year’s Ching Ming Festival death toll was about half of last year’s and described the national situation as “generally stable”.

In one city alone – Tongchuan in Shaanxi province – the local fire brigade was called out to 53 separate incidents between the start of the festival and Sunday morning, with many firefighters working around the clock.

Two further forest fires were reported on Saturday, one near Maanshan city in central Anhui province and one in Xiaogan city in neighbouring Hubei province.

Local authorities said both were brought under control after several hours.

Meanwhile on Sunday, about 1,200 firefighters in Shaanxi were trying to contain a major wild fire near the city of Hancheng, which was brought partly under control by Monday morning.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Six killed in blazes during Ching Ming Festival
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