April 7, 2006

China puts out 10-day-old forest blaze

BEIJING (Reuters) - Thousands of Chinese firefighters
helped by artificial rain have put out a forest blaze which
raged across more than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) in the
mountainous southwest, state media said on Friday.

Three villagers were injured and about 800 local residents
were forced to evacuate after the fire broke out last Wednesday
just a few km from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.

"All flames were out by 11 this morning," state television
said on Friday, adding more than 6,000 firefighters and troops
were still at the scene on Friday to make sure the fire did not

Steady drizzle created by artificial seeding of clouds had
helped extinguish the flames, the China Daily said, quoting a
release from the State Forestry Administration.

The administration also revealed dismissals, demotions and
other disciplinary action against officials blamed for six
forest fires over the past year, the Communist Party's
mouthpiece, the People's Daily, said.

Seven suspects accused of starting fires, in some case
accidentally, had also been arrested, the People's Daily said.

The Yunnan fire follows five blazes in the northern
provinces of Shanxi and Hebei in late March which killed at
least four people.

China's State Council, or cabinet, issued an urgent notice
on Tuesday ordering provinces in the north, northeast and
southwest -- which have seen little rain this spring -- to be
on high alert against fire.