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Fire sweeps through old village in SW China

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2016-02-23

A catastrophic fire broke out on Feb 20 in the village of Wenquan, in Guizhou province, destroying one community and more than 60 traditional wooden structures with a long history, officials said, with no casualties, but affecting the lives of at least 120 residents.

They said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, while the smell of smoke could still be in the mountainous area nearby, Xinhua reported.

Fire sweeps through old village in SW China

Aged victim wiping away the tears on the debris where her house used to stand, in Wenquan, Guizhou province, on Feb 21,2016 [Photo/Xinhua]

Wenquan known for its hot springs and is home to more than 2,000 members of ethnic groups, including the Miao people, who were the main inhabitants of the destroyed area. They build their houses close together on the mountain side and they have been one of the village's most attractive features.

One villager, Ou Zhengcheng, who was there when the fire broke out, said, "I was just chatting with some folks on the mountainside while I noticed the smoke, and then a raging fire, and nothing could stop it," then added that a dozen people tried to extinguish the fire.

Afterwards, the area was just a smoldering ruin of roof tiles and ash everywhere, and in the words of the 66-years-old Ou Xiuwen, who says she lost a lot in the fire. "I've never seen such disaster."

The firefighters were able to put it out five hours later, but, according to one local, "There was no water even in the fireplug," then added that they fought the fire with basins and buckets of water.

The Party secretary of a local town, Raojie, blamed the difficulties in controlling the fire on the fact that the wooden structures are packed so closely together, then added that they had established a safe zone by tearing down some of the houses.

But, a village official, Ou Xiuxiang, blamed the dry weather, noting, "It hasn't rained for more than two weeks," while another prefectural official said, "Every wooden house is a potential source of fire," and explained that they had spent 220 million yuan on fire protection in 157 villages with mostly wooden structures.

The county says that the prefecture concerned holds more than 3,900 villages and that about 40-percent of the fires that have broken out over the last decade were caused by the use of appliances and fires for household use and the lack of safety consciousness means the appliances are a safety risk.

On Dec 12, in 2014, another historical Miao village in Qianhe county burned to the ground, wiping out 100 years of culture and hundreds of people's homes.

On Jan 25, of the same year, the largest village of the Bei Dong people, near the Qiandongnan prefecture, which had a 300-year history, saw 100 of their unique architectural structures left in ashes.

And, back on Nov 21, 2010, near the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, a fire in the village of Cangpo, which had a nearly 800-year history, saw 11 households lose their homes to fire. So, the question remains, will more of the historical villages disappear?

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