Chongqing wildfires put under control
Several big wildfires that have spread since Thursday amid continuing extreme hot weather and drought have been brought under control by firefighters in Chongqing. No casualties were reported.
The fires were scattered among forests in Jiangjin, Dazu, Tongliang and Banan districts in the southwestern municipality.
On Sunday night, many residents in downtown Chongqing posted on social media that they could smell the heavy smoke even inside their apartments and spotted tiny burned embers on their balconies. It was believed the smoke and embers were from the wildfire in nearby Banan district, which broke out Sunday afternoon.
The local government mobilized some 5,000 emergency rescue workers and seven helicopters to extinguish the fires and evacuated nearly 1,500 people to safety shelters.
According to the rescue team, because the wildfires had broken out on steep mountain slopes, it was very difficult to extinguish them, especially in Sunday's windy conditions.
Chongqing Daily reported on Monday that the wildfires have been "successfully suppressed "and an investigation into the causes of the fires is going smoothly.
Known as one of China's "three stoves" because of its high summer temperatures, Chongqing, a city with over 31 million people, has seen average summer high temperatures of 37 C.
The municipality has been scorched by its worst heat wave since 1961, when nationwide observation statistics began. Most parts of the city have experienced high temperatures of more than 40 C for several weeks, and temperatures soared to 45 C on Thursday. The ongoing heat wave is expected to continue into this week.
According to the local water resources bureau, 51 rivers in the city have stopped flowing and 24 reservoirs have dried up.
With the scorching heat and lack of precipitation, Chongqing issued a red alert, the highest warning level, for forest fires in most districts and counties from Aug 16 to 23.
Chongqing forest chiefs Chen Min'er, the city's Party secretary, and Hu Henghua, mayor of the city, released an emergency order on Sunday asking all levels of related officials to strengthen forest fire control and prevention work.
The order said that fire prevention is the main priority. Forest chiefs at all levels must pay attention to nature reserves, State-owned forest farms, tourist attractions and forest parks as well as families living in forests with children and seniors.
The city has banned everyone, except for those living in the mountains, from entering forests within its mountain ranges until Aug 31.During the ban, the use of fire, or performing any activity likely to cause fire, is strictly prohibited.
"Forest chiefs in the downtown areas must resolutely prevent forest fires with all means and with strict organization," the order said.
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