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Northeast forest blaze brought under control

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-02 09:08
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A fire that damaged at least 1,500 hectares of forests in the country's northeastern mountains bordering Russia was brought under control yesterday.

The State Forestry Administration (SFA) said late yesterday that 8,758 personnel and 11 helicopters were deployed to battle the blaze.

The cause of the fire that started in the Jiagedaqi section of the Great Hinggan Mountains in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province was not yet known.

The SFA said the fire spread swiftly because of gusty winds and the dry and warm weather, but fire-fighters had snuffed out most of the flames by yesterday evening.

Meteorological offices, however, have forecast strong winds over the next few days, and that could make it difficult for the firemen to extinguish the blaze completely.

"Dry and windy weather may continue over the next few days in North China and could help the remaining flames to spread," said Yang Guiming, a senior engineer of Central Meteorological Station.

The State Meteorological Administration (SMA), too, said that photographs sent back by satellites on Monday evening showed that another forest fire in Hunlunbuir League in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region had spread to about 20 hectares.

Du Yongsheng, director of the SMA's forest fire prevention office, warned at a press conference on Sunday that China faced a "serious" threat from forest fires this year, and called for measures to prevent them.

He said natural disasters caused by climate change such as global warming could result in drought and sandstorms, especially in the country's northeastern and northwestern regions.

The growing number of tourists going into the forests during the May Day Golden Week holiday, too, increased the risk of fire, Du said.

Twenty years ago, a fire in the Great Hinggan Mountains killed at least 200 people and damaged about 1 million hectares of timberland in three weeks.