Forest fire spreads in Chongqing

Forest fire spreads in Chongqing

1 September 2006

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China — About 4,000 people have been mobilized to fight a forest fire that is spreading rapidly through the drought parched timberlands of southwest China’s Chongqing municipality, a local forestry official said Thursday.

Soldiers, fire-fighters, armed police and local residents are fighting the blaze, which has already burned for more than 26 hours ravaging an area of 66 hectares, said the source with the municipal forest fire prevention office.

The fire began at around 1:00 p.m. Wednesday in Yakou Village, in Yubei District, about 40 kilometers northeast of downtown Chongqing, and soon spread to neighboring Beibei District, the source said.

Three 20-meter-wide firebreaks have been made to stop the blaze from spreading to residential areas, said the source.

No casualties from the fire have been reported, according to the official.

The worst drought in 50 years hit Chongqing and neighboring Sichuan Province this year, and has afflicted major areas of the two regions for the past three months.

The cause of the fire was still unclear, but the prolonged drought plaguing had no doubt contributed to the fire’s spread, said the source.

The city had reported 97 forest fires since the beginning of August, scorching an area of 600 hectares, according to the office.

Temperatures of up to 42.4 degrees Celsius were recorded Thursday, after a high of 43.4 degrees Wednesday. The city reported a record high of 44.5 degrees Celsius on Aug. 16.

Chongqing has been hit by the worst drought since its meteorological records began in 1891. It began in mid-May in northeastern areas, and has plagued most of the municipality for up to 90 days.

Temperatures are forecast to stay above 40 degrees Celsius Friday, said the municipal meteorological observatory, which predicted that the blistering weather may end Monday.

Nearly eight million people and 7.3 million livestock had suffered temporary shortages of drinking water due to drought, which also affected 1.3 million hectares of cropland, according to the municipal flood prevention and drought relief headquarters.

The central and municipal governments have allocated 223 million yuan (27.8 million U.S. dollars) to fight “the worst drought in a century” to hit Chongqing Municipality, said Vice Mayor Chen Guangguo Wednesday.


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