Caixin
Mar 31, 2020 01:15 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Sichuan Wildfire Kills 19, Threatens City in Southwest China

A major wildfire that began Monday outside the city of Xichang in Southwest China’s Sichuan province has killed at least 19 people (link in Chinese), most of them firefighters, and is threatening to enter the city’s urban areas, according to state broadcaster China Central Television and the local government.

Investigators believe the fire began on a farm south of the city in the afternoon and has so far burned 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres), according to the Xichang city government. The blaze is threatening the city’s urban areas, including crucial infrastructure such as gas stations and schools. It is spreading rapidly and smoke is already drifting into the city center, the local fire department said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. A local resident and official at the local fire department told Caixin that the blaze may be getting fueled by recent dry weather and strong winds.

More than 2,000 firefighters, officials and other support staff have been deployed to fight the blaze, which has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents and imposition of travel restrictions.

“I live on the 12th floor and I can feel the heat, the ash stings my eyes,” a local resident living in Xichang’s downtown told Caixin. “I can smell the burning smell. The whole city is full of smoke.”

The local government said the 19 deaths consist of 18 local firefighters and one guide.

Contact reporter Guo Yingzhe (yingzheguo@caixin.com) and editor Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

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