Heat signatures and smoke haze visible from fires
burning in northeastern China,
(Source: MODIS Land Rapid Response System)
Forest fires rage in northeastern China mountains
BEIJING – Dry weather and thick forests laced with choking smoke are hampering efforts to extinguish forest fires raging for more than a week in northeastern China’s Inner Mongolia, a local official said on Thursday.
“The forests are too dense and the smoke too thick, so people can’t get close,” said an official at the local forest administration bureau. “Firefighters can’t even see where the fires are.”
The wildfires, devouring forests in more than 10 different areas of the Greater Hinggan Mountains, were started when lightning hit dead trees, the Web site of the official People’s Daily said on Wednesday.
The official Xinhua news agency said firefighters had brought one of the blazes under control. In all, 3,600 firefighters were battling the blazes, it reported. State radio said the number was near 5,000. No casualties were reported.
The Inner Mongolian official said helicopters had been parachuting firefighters into affected areas. “But it has not rained for three days and the temperature is fairly high, which makes firefighting difficult,” he added.
The Hinggan Range covers 106,000 square km (40,900 square miles) and is home to half a million people, most of whom are employees of lumber firms. It divides arid plains on the west from some of China’s lushest pine forests to the east. The official said there was no need to evacuate people because most of the fires were far from roads and residential areas.
In 1987, fires raged out of control in the Hinggan area for nearly a month, burning 13,300 square km (5,135 square miles) of forests, killing more than 200 people and causing damage of hundreds of millions of dollars. The official said he did not know how many trees had been burned or what the economic losses were this time.
Source: Planet Ark