April 5, 2006

Forest fire rages in southwest China

BEIJING (Reuters) - A forest fire raging for more than a
week has forced 800 people to evacuate a southwestern Chinese
village as Beijing ordered a high alert in areas of the country
plagued by drought, state media said.

Three villagers were injured by the fire that broke out
last Wednesday in a town just 28 km (17 miles) from Kunming,
the capital of Yunnan province, the China Daily said on

"About 6,000 people have been mobilized to fight the fire,
which has been fed by a prolonged drought and windy weather,"
it said.

The Yunnan fire follows three blazes in the northern
province of Shanxi in late March which were eventually put out.

China's State Council, or cabinet, issued an urgent notice
on Tuesday ordering provinces in the north, northeast and
southwest -- which have seen severe rainfall declines this
spring -- to be on high alert and prepare for fires, Xinhua
news agency said.

Firefighters were cutting a 50-metre-wide fire break over
53 km to prevent the Yunnan blaze from spreading, the China
Daily said. It said police had detained a young woman as a
suspected arsonist.