Forest fire kills 19 in China

A forest fire in southwest China has killed 19 people.
A forest fire in southwest China has killed 19 people.

A forest fire in southwestern China has killed 19 people who were fighting the blaze and hundreds of reinforcements have been sent in as nearby residents are evacuated, officials and state media report.

The area threatened by the fire in Sichuan province is thinly populated, but there was no estimate on how many people were leaving the evacuation zone.

State media have described villages, a school, a chemical plant and other places as under threat.

It wasn't exactly clear when the deaths occurred, but an information officer in the city of Xichang was cited as saying the fire started on a farm on Monday afternoon and quickly spread to nearby mountains due to strong winds. It said one of those killed was a guide and the rest were firefighters.

An emergency evacuation was initiated, and more than 300 professional firefighters and another 700 militiamen were sent to help.

Xinhua said another 885 firefighters from other cities in Sichuan were being deployed to Xichang, along with 142 fire engines, six remote water supply systems and extensive firefighting equipment.

It said drones would be used to monitor the fire's progress.

Almost exactly a year ago in the same area, a blaze high in the rugged forested mountains killed 30 people, 27 of them firefighters and three helpers.

Like many countries, China has seen a greater number of more deadly forest fires as a result of climate change, habitat destruction and human encroachment into formerly wild areas.

Australian Associated Press