Xichang forest fire extinguished after killing 19, injuring 3; structures saved
A forest fire in Xichang, capital of the Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture, was extinguished at midday on Thursday, according to the Xichang city government.
Accompanied by helicopters, 3,600 firefighters participated in the effort, clearing smoldering areas to prevent the resurgence of the fire, it said.
The effort came as Xichang announced the most stringent forest fire control measures in its history.
Under the new measures, people are barred from entering Lushan Mountain and other key forest areas without approval and are not allowed to bring sources of fire to such areas.
In case of forest fires, perpetrators will be investigated and punished, as will the townships, neighborhood committee offices, communities and villages if it is determined that their lax supervision helped lead to the fires.
The raging forest fire in Xichang, which started at about 4 pm on Monday in Jingjiu township, killed 18 firefighters and a local guide and injured three other firefighters.
The blaze started on a farm. Strong winds spread the flames to Lushan Mountain, turning it into an inferno that people in downtown Xichang could see and smell as smoke filled the air.
Extinguishing the fire saved the 1,100-year-old Guangfu Buddhist Temple and the Liangshan Yizu Slave Museum on the mountain.
The temple, whose buildings cover about 20,000 square meters, is home to Buddhist scriptures, a 2,200-year-old pine tree and a 262-year-old bronze bell.
The slave museum opened in 1958. Liangshan, which has the largest habitat of the Yi people in China, shifted from slavery to socialism in 1956.
According to Shi Zhaozhou, the temple abbot, more than 10 boxes of Buddhist scriptures, works of calligraphy and paintings were transferred on Tuesday to protect them. Some of the scriptures are out of print and precious, he said.
Some 800 cultural relics from the museum were transferred on the same day, said Zeng Lin, Party chief of the museum.
The flames got as near as 400 meters from the temple, leading firefighters to spray surrounding trees and plants, including the ancient pine tree, with water to prevent the fire from spreading.
Two burn experts from the Sichuan Provincial People's Hospital diagnosed the three injured firefighters and found 50 percent, 30 percent and 2 percent of their bodies were burned.
The three were in stable condition on Thursday.
More than 100 local residents lined up in the center of Xichang to donate blood to the injured firefighters on Wednesday, Xichang officials said.
Two psychologists from the West China Hospital of Sichuan University reached Xichang on Wednesday and will offer psychotherapy to the injured, their families and relatives of the dead firefighters, they said.
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