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Sichuan fire razes 200 hectares of virgin forest
By Liang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-26 05:40

Fire ripped through virgin forest yesterday less than 50 kilometres from a blaze that destroyed 800 hectares of natural woodland more than a week ago.

The first blaze, in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, was finally put out on Monday.

Then another 200 hectares of natural forest went up in flames at the Shuiluo Township in Muli Tibet Autonomous County, Sichuan Province, sources with the Beijing-based State Forestry Administration (SFA) said yesterday.

No casualties have been reported and police have taken someone into custody for questioning. The county boasts the largest forest area in Sichuan.

"Extending through the forest from the east, south and west, the fire is threatening more nearby woods, being fuelled by dry weather and strong winds," an SFA official said yesterday before heading for the site from Beijing.

"It will be extremely difficult to put out the fire in a short period of time because there is no road and it is a remote mountainous area 2,800 metres above sea level."

Headquarters have been set up in the township so the authorities can co-ordinate fire-control operations with hundreds of firefighters dotted around the area, but communications are difficult in such a remote area.

To try and stop the fire from spreading, the SFA has launched a scheme to co-ordinate various bodies from different authorities.

"Once this scheme is up and running, the authorities will be able to use all local resources to fight the fire and ask for help from neighbouring areas," the SFA said.

Those working in the headquarters can command and co-ordinate all agencies involved. A group of experts from Sichuan Province has arrived at the scene to help more than 900 forest policemen working there to block off possible fire routes.

Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu urged forestry authorities to assemble more professional fire-fighting forces, stop the fire from spreading further and mitigate damage it may cause in the days ahead.

The SFA has also ordered the local authorities to concentrate their efforts limiting the spread of the fire.

Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, the dry weather could have been a factor, said Zhang Lianzhong, deputy chief of the Forest Fire Prevention Headquarters under the prefecture's forestry bureau.

(China Daily 05/26/2005 page2)

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