Forest fires kill 82 in China in first quarter

Forest fires kill 82 in China in first quarter

5 April 2008

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China — Eighty-two people were killed in 6,351 forest fires in the first quarter of this year, according to figures from the State Forestry Administration.

About 24,910 hectares of forests nationwide were damaged mainly due to large amounts of flammable debris created in sever winter weather and rising temperature in the south as well as draughts in the north, SFA spokesman Cao Qingyao said on Thursday.

Some fires occurred following local villagers burned paper items in mountainous regions to honor the deceased ahead of the traditional Qingming Festival on Friday. Many people have gone into the forests to clear the debris and replant, which itself increased the risk of fire, he said.

Cao said the central government had allocated funds and materials worth of 50 million yuan (7.1 million U.S. dollars) to fire-hit areas, mostly in Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi.

Vice Premier Hui Liangyu also urged local authorities to be highly vigilant against forest fires and disease outbreaks to ensure the safety of people’s lives and property.

Hui ordered most debris cleared and forest fire forecasting systems, observation towers and other fire fighting infrastructure to be repaired or rebuilt by the end of May.

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