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Chinese vice premier orders tougher measures for forest fire prevention
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07:38, April 11, 2008

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Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu has ordered to step up efforts to prevent forest fires.

Speaking in Beijing on Thursday, he said the risk of fire had increased as the lasting drought and high temperatures had left large amounts of flammable debris in affected forest areas.

The northeastern part of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the southwestern regions faced increasing risk of forest fires due to the warming weather, Hui said.

The national forest fire prevention headquarters and similar agencies should improve their emergency plans, enhance leadership and strengthen coordination to ensure the safety of people and forests.

Authorities should step up monitoring systems and enforce every single measure to prevent forest fires. Relevant departments should report severe forest fires immediately, he added.

The State Headquarters for Forest Fire Control issued an urgentcircular on Wednesday, requiring all-level forest fire control departments to tighten control over fire use in forests and keep a close look over children and mentally-retarded people who are likely to cause fires.

It added people found responsible for forest fires would be punished severely.

The fires that had been raging in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region for nearly five days were extinguished on Wednesday with the help of 3,900 firefighters and cloud-seeding efforts, the local meteorological authority said.

Meteorological staff had shot 42 cannons in 20 operations since Tuesday morning to induce heavy snowfall with precipitation of up to 9 millimeters on the burning woods in the Greater Higgnan Mountains in the country's northeast.

The fires, which engulfed an area of about 23.8 square kilometers, were reported after 130 firefighters had extinguished another blaze in the same area on Friday. That fire was started by villagers burning grassy areas to open up new fields.

A forest fire in Shangri-la, a Tibetan-inhabited prefecture in Yunnan Province in the country's southwest, had been brought under control since it erupted late on Sunday.

The fire's movement was stopped about 10 kilometers away beforeit reached Potatso Park, the country's first national park that boasts diverse scenery, including crystal-clear lakes, mountains and streams.

However, 187 hectares of forested land were hit by the blaze, which was caused by improper use of fire by villagers in the wild, according to a police investigation.

More than 1,000 people were involved in the firefighting campaign.

Last month, the nation's forestry authority allocated 20 million yuan (about 2.8 million U.S. dollars) worth of firefighting equipment to 12 provinces which were ravaged by or were likely to suffer more forest fires as the temperature rose.

According to the State Forest Administration (SFA), the 12 provinces included Jiangxi, Hunan, Fujian and Hubei. They were facing an increasing risk of forest fires due to warming weather and large volumes of flammable debris after the winter snowstorms.

Some 24,000 units of equipment, including fire extinguishers, fireproof suits and other facilities were delivered to these regions, said Liu Xiongying, an SFA official.

Source: Xinhua

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