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China: Around The Nation

Unexpected snowfall helps put out giant forest fire in China’s northeast

Thousands of firefighters found themselves going from heatwave to sub-zero blizzard overnight

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 4:52pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 5:33pm

A sudden heavy snowfall on Saturday disrupted firefighters as they were extinguishing a large forest fire that had been burning for five days in a mountainous region of northeast China near the Russian border, according to official media reports.

The command headquarters for the firefighters in Daxinganling mountains in Inner Mongolia

decided to temporarily evacuate the crews and assemble them on roads near the fire zone after 39mm of rain starting on Friday afternoon turned into 18cm of snow overnight.

The forest was covered with snow, making it hard for firemen to mop up what was left of the fire. The main problem was that the crews were not adequately equipped for the unexpected snowfall.

The blaze broke out in dry, warmer-than-usual conditions earlier in the week, so the crews were wearing reasonably light clothing. The temperature dropped to minus 5 degrees Centigrade overnight on Friday.

Thousands tackling huge forest fire in northern China

“The firefighters are extremely exhausted and their clothing is too thin,” Yan Hongguang, head of local forest protection bureau, told Xinhua. “The heavy snow also makes it difficult to transport supplies and to reach anyone who might be injured.”

The blaze, caused by the smouldering embers dumped by a local worker, spread to 11,500 hectares with the assistance of dry weather and strong winds. Some 9,400 firefighters, including more than 3,000 forest police, had bee sent to the are to help contain the blaze.

More tents and other supplies had been sent to the area.

Meanwhile, an emergency 40 million yuan (US$5.8 million) fund was earmarked to fight forest fires in the country’s remote northeast, the Ministry of Finance said on Saturday.

The fund was allocated on local authorities the day before, Xinhua reported.

By noon on Friday, the fire which broke out on Tuesday in the Bilahe Beidahe Forest in the Greater Hinggan Mountains had been brought under control.

Saturday was also the 30th anniversary of the country’s worst recorded forest fire, which destroyed much of the Heilongjiang side of the Daxinganling mountain range. The blaze raged for 28 days, destroying a million hectares of forest and claiming 211 lives.