China — More than 800 people fled to emergency shelters today as a forest fire raged near the coastal city of Weihai in Shandong province.
The fire stretched as long as 7 km after breaking out in the woods northwest of the city centre yesterday, razing the Xianguding national park.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but heatwaves in many parts of China were considered a factor in the conflagration. Shandong has hoisted an orange weather alert in the past few days as temperatures in some areas reached 41 degrees Celsius.
More than 2,000 firefighters were mobilised and helicopters were deployed to stem the blaze, which was fanned by strong winds and fuelled by dry leaves and grass.
The Weihai city government said that by 6.40am today, the fire had been largely controlled, with only a few areas till in flames.
All kindergartens were shut down in Wehai, on the eastern tip of Shandong, as authorities urged children to stay at home.
Residents in densely populated areas nearby panicked as thick smoke blanketed the air.
Emergency shelters that could each accommodate 2,000 residents were set up in sports stadiums and high schools. Food and water were distributed among the evacuees.
Public servants and state-run firms employees were required to report to various government headquarters, where they were given water buckets and brooms to attack the flames and shuttled to fire zones where they could assist the firemen.