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Grassland fire kills 22 in Southwest China

The grassland on fire is pictured on Dec 5, 2010.
A spreading grassland fire in a mountainous Tibetan region in Southwest China proved deadly when it trapped soldiers and local residents trying to put it out, killing 22 and injuring four as of press time on Sunday night, local officials said.
It is reported the Forest Public Security Bureau under the State Forestry Administration will send firefighting helicopters to the area from Guangdong province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region on Monday if the fire continues.
About 85 firefighters and more rescuers were dispatched from nearby Luhuo county to the site where the blaze began at about 12:30 pm on Sunday in Dawu county in Sichuan's Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture.
Soldiers with the independent battalion of the Garze military subregion of the People's Liberation Army arrived soon after the fire began.
They almost had the flames under control at 3 pm, but strong winds began to fan it at 3:10 pm, trapping the soldiers and villagers.
The dead are comprised of 15 soldiers, five villagers and two forest workers. Three of the four injured villagers were sent to Kangding, the prefecture's capital, for treatment.
Sichuan Party Secretary Liu Qibao has called for all-out efforts in the rescue and firefighting work.
A special working team led by Sichuan Governor Jiang Jufeng and Vice-Governor Zhong Mian headed to Garze on Sunday afternoon.
The provincial health bureau has dispatched rescue teams and ambulances from the provincial capital Chengdu and Ya'an city.
Dawu is more than 500 kilometers from Chengdu.
About 500 mu (33 hectares) of land have been scorched in the county's Zilong village, about 6 kilometers from the county seat.
The forest contingent had to retreat to its base at night.
About 200 mu were still burning as of press time.
In May 1987, a forest fire in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, affected 1.14 million hectares and caused 213 deaths. And on May 5, 1972, a grassland fire in Xi Ujimqin Banner (county), Xilin Gol League (prefecture), the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, killed 69.
The Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture occupies 152,600 square kilometers and is located in the southeastern swath of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Tibetans account for 78.7 percent of the population of 930,500.
Dawu is home to rich forests, grasslands and water resources. About 89 percent of its 49,000 residents are ethnic Tibetans.
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