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Four confirmed dead as rash of 43 fires brought under control

FOUR people were killed in east China's Fujian Province which suffered from 43 forest fires on Thursday and Friday, engulfing more than 1,000 hectares, local authorities said yesterday.

A forestry guide was injured when fighting a fire and died after not responding to treatment. Two villagers were killed as they set fire to grass to clear land for farming and one other man was killed after he started a fire accidentally with a cigarette butt.

More than 8,000 people, including police officers, firemen and villagers battled the blazes. It also took 35 fire engines and about 1,000 other vehicles to put out the fires, according to the Provincial Forestry Bureau.

Fujian has nearly seven million hectares of forest and is typical of regions suffering from drought which helps fuel these fires, officials said.

One fire, that burned for nearly 40 hours across 330 hectares of forest, was extinguished yesterday morning in Shanxian County, 270 kilometers from Fujian's capital city Fuzhou. It broke out at about 12:30pm Thursday and is believed to have been set off by a villager discarding a burning cigarette.

More than 3,000 people, including police officers, firemen and villagers, were mobilized to put out the flames fanned through 10 villages by strong winds.

The fire was controlled on Friday morning, but wind reignited several smoldering fires in the afternoon. The fire cut power supplies to the Sanming section of two railway lines, delayed 26 trains and temporarily blocked traffic on two highways.

The local government evacuated 11 people who lived close to the site. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Officials are keeping a watchful eye for new breakouts and rain is forecast for the weekend.


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