BEIJING (AP) — Chinese officials say dry conditions, high temperatures and a sudden change in wind direction all contributed to the deaths of 19 people in a forest fire in mountainous southwestern China.
The official Xinhua News Agency said late Tuesday that thousands of firefighters were still battling the blaze near the city of Xichng in Sichuan province.
Another three people were in stable condition after going missing early Monday with the 18 firefighters and their guide whose bodies were later found.
Li Jun, Xichang’s top official, was quoted as saying by Xinhua that the area had gone 20 consecutive days without rain, with temperatures of 31 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit) on Monday and winds blowing at 20 meters (65 feet) per second. “All the factors contributed to the rapid development of the fire,” the report said.
Along with fighting the flames and evacuating residents, reinforcements have also been deployed to protect key industrial infrastructure including a liquefied petroleum gas storage and distribution station, two gas stations, four schools, two cultural heritage sites and Xichang’s largest warehouse, Xinhua said. More than 18,000 people in three nearby towns have been moved to safety, it said.
Almost exactly a year ago in the same area, a similar blaze killed 27 firefighters and three helpers.