BEIJING: At least 30 firefighters died after hundreds were sent to tackle a forest blaze in remote mountains in southwest China’s Sichuan province at the weekend, authorities said Monday (Apr 1).
Nearly 700 firefighters were deployed to battle the fire, which broke out on Saturday on steep terrain at an altitude of around 4,000 metres in Muli County, according to the ministry of emergency management.
Rescuers have found the bodies of 30 firefighters earlier listed as missing, the ministry said on its official twitter-like Weibo account.
Local authorities had lost contact with 30 firefighters Sunday afternoon after a sudden change in wind direction ignited a “huge fireball”, the ministry had said in an earlier statement.
Footage aired by state broadcaster CCTV showed plumes of smoke coming from the forested, mountainous region.
President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang delivered instructions to respond to the emergency, the statement said.
A separate forest fire that lasted two days in the northern province of Shanxi was brought under control on Sunday, the official Xinhua news agency said.
More than 9,000 people were evacuated from their homes due to that blaze, which did not cause any casualties.
Nearly 3,000 firefighters doused another forest fire in the outskirts of Beijing Sunday. No casualties were reported in the fire, which started Saturday and spread over 42.7 hectares.
China’s National Meteorological Center has warned warmer temperatures and lower precipitation compared with previous years have raised the risk of forest fires in the north of the country, Xinhua said.
In May 1987, the deadliest forest fire in recent Chinese history killed 119 in northeast Heilongjiang province, injuring 102 and leaving 51,000 homeless.