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Forest fire rages in southwest China province

(Xinhua)

16:02, March 19, 2012

KUNMING, March 19 (Xinhua) -- A fire that engulfed mountain forests in Yemin county of Yunnan province Sunday, has spread to the provincial capital Kunming, local authorities said Monday.

The fire began at 5:25 p.m. Sunday, said a spokesman with the provincial forest fire prevention headquarters.

It spread quickly despite overnight rescue efforts. By 8:30 a.m., the fire had raged to Caopu township in Anning, a county-level city on the outskirts of Kunming, he said.

Authorities in Kunming had sent more than 530 firefighters to the site Monday, but little progress had been made due to high winds and the woods being tinder dry, the official said.

Rescue work continued Monday afternoon.

A severe drought has lingered in the heavily-forested province for three consecutive years, causing water shortages for several million residents and posing fire risks.

Yunnan is China's second most heavily-forested province, with a total forest coverage of 47 percent.

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