While China continues to battle the deadly coronavirus, another battle is being waged in Xichang City, in China’s southwest Sichuan Province.
Firefighters are working around the clock to put out the blazes in the region, as new fires began to flare on Lushan Mountain, and spread quickly toward the downtown area, CGTN.com reported.
The new blazes were putting important facilities in peril, including gas stations, several schools and a winery. A centuries-old temple and a museum on the mountain were also threatened, the report said.
The dry weather and strong winds are believed to be the main factors that have made the situation extremely complicated, despite the actions of thousands of firefighters and the deployment of different kinds of equipment, the report said.
“The biggest challenges we face now are the strong winds and high temperatures. Also, the mountains are steep for firemen to climb up,” Liu Bo, an official of the Xichang City government who works as a member of the rescue headquarters, told CGTN.
To prevent secondary disasters, several hundred firefighters have also been put on standby around the city’s key facilities, including oil depots, gas stations and schools. More than 25,000 residents living nearby have been evacuated, the report said.
“The consequences would be unthinkable if it explodes. Upon arrival, we immediately divide our crew into several teams with different tasks,” said Fan Xiaolin, a firefighter who guards an oil depot with some 30,000 cubic meters in stock.
The fire has taken the lives of 19 people, including 18 firemen. The bodies of the victims have been sent to the city’s funeral parlor, where a special mourning hall has been set up for the public to express condolences, the report said.
“I couldn’t help but cry. I am heartbroken. Most of them were just in their thirties. They are like my own kids,” said Zuo Feng, a local resident who went to pay tribute to the victims.
“We don’t need heroes. We just hope the firefighters can return safe and sound,” she added.
Another three firefighters suffered burns of varying degrees. They are receiving medical treatment and are said to be in stable condition, the report said.
Xichang is the capital of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, which is densely covered with vegetation. Wildfires have frequently struck this area in recent years. Last year, a fire caused by lightning took the lives of 30 people, including 27 firefighters.