Tibet — A SPREADING grassland fire in a mountainous Tibetan region in southwest China proved deadly when it trapped soldiers and local residents trying to put out the blaze.
By last night, at least 22 had been killed and three severely burned, local officials said.
The wildfire was raging through a grassland on top of a plateau some 6 kilometers from the county government seat in Daofu County of Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze in Sichuan Province. About 33.3 hectares of the grassland have burned, while 13 hectares are still on fire, a local firefighters said.
“The fire line stretches several kilometers long. As it darkens at night, most fire-fighters have retreated to the camps,” said Yang Hao, a senior firefighting official. “However, we are still closely monitoring the situation.”
About 2,000 people have joined the firefighting efforts. Sichuan Governor Jiang Jufeng led a work-team to Daofu, some 580 kilometers from provincial capital Chengdu, late last night. An emergency medical team is also on its way to Daofu from Chengdu.
Local officials said the fire broke out at noon yesterday and was brought under control at about 3pm. However, gusting winds boosted the flames and trapped people fighting the fire.
Of the 22 fatalities, 15 were soldiers, two were workers with the grassland administration while five others were local civilians, officials said.
Three of the most severely injured have been rushed to hospital.
Gusting winds died down late last night, providing favorable conditions to put out the flames, firefighters said.
Governor Jiang ordered local officials to strengthen fire monitoring efforts and try their best to avoid additional casualties. He also ordered a thorough investigation into the cause of the fire.
Daofu sits in a forest-covered area at the eastern edge of Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. It has a population of 45,000, about 89 percent of whom are ethnic Tibetans.
A string of deadly fires has hit China in recent weeks as most parts of the country brace for an especially dry winter.