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Nearly 3400 villagers evacuated as forest fire rages in eastern Tibet

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(TibetanReview.net, Mar17’24) — Nearly 3,400 Tibetans from a number of villages have been evacuated and more than 1200 firefighters deployed to fight a raging forest fire which started on Mar 15 evening in the eastern Tibetan County of Nyagchu (or Nyagchukha, Chinese: Yajiang) in Kardze (Ganzi or Garze) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province, according to China’s official media and other reports Mar 16-17. The fire soon spread to form three fire fields from south to north, reported the Chinese language chinanews.com.cn Mar 17. No damages to property, infrastructure, or human life have been reported so far.

The fire was reported to have broken out at around 17:00 on the 15th in Baizi Village in Nyagchu county’s Golog (Xiala or Xi’eluo) Town. By about 15:00 on the 16th, the fire quickly expanded and spread due to sudden increase in wind power at the fire site.

The report continued that at 4 o’clock on the 17th, the Sichuan Forest Fire Corps and local professional fire-fighting teams approached the fire from the southwest and northeast sides of the fire to open a breakthrough, and put out open flames.

The report said that the three fire fields currently formed were at an average altitude of 2,600 metres, with the vegetation dominated by green hills and pine trees.

The Chinese language report continued: “Among them, the No. 1 fire site is located in the southwest of Yajiang County. There is a continuous fire line on the north and west lines of the fire site, developing toward the northwest; the No. 2 fire site is located at the northernmost side, has spread to Tongda Village in the east, and continues to develop in the northeast direction, which is the key direction of fire development; Fire Site No. 3 is located on the northwest side of Yajiang County, with continuous fire lines spreading.”

A Level-4 emergency response has been activated by China’s Ministry of Emergency Management, over 1200 firefighters from national and local fire rescue squads deployed, and eight helicopters mobilized to fight the fire as it quickly spread over multiple mountain ridges, said the chinanews.com.cn, the official Xinhua news agency, and scmp.com reports Mar 16-17.

So far, no casualties have been reported. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The Lianghekou hydropower station in Yajiang is also unaffected, according to a Xinhua report Mar 17.

The scmp.com Mar 17 cited China’s official CCTV broadcaster as saying a total of 3,396 villagers from a dozen villages have been safely evacuated. A photovoltaic power station in the region had not been affected, but communication with the hydroelectric station had been interrupted. Besides, a section of a highway that passes through the region has been temporarily closed, the report said, citing Xinhua.

The report cited a resident of provincial capital Chengdu, located 500km (311 miles) from the site, as saying the wildfires turned the sky orange on Mar 16.

“The sky suddenly turned frighteningly orange in Chengdu. It felt like an apocalyptic disaster movie,” the city resident has said, declining to be named.

On the other hand, a Xinhua report Mar 17 cited local residents as saying the fire was not visible from the county seat and that water, electricity, and communication services had remained unaffected.

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