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Forest fires kill 94 through late April
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Forest fires killed 94 people and injured 72 others from January 1 to April 24, an official of the State Headquarters for Forest Fire Control said in an online interview on Tuesday.

China had 10,230 forest fires during the period, 45.9 percent more than the average of the past three years, mainly in areas hit by severe winter weather. The storms left behind huge amounts of flammable debris.

More regions had forest fires this year, including the eastern coastal provinces, the southern Hainan Province, the western Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and northeastern areas, said the headquarters' deputy director Lei Jiafu in the interview.

Lei said 98 percent of the 10,060 forest fires reported in the first quarter occurred in the south, which was hit by the worst snow storms in five decades in January and February.

Lingering drought in the north had also worsened the situation, while increased fire use in open country during the spring ploughing season and post-disaster construction increased fire risks, said Lei.

Most of north China will experience above-average temperatures in the next 10 days, meaning that forest fire alarm levels will be high over the upcoming May Day holidays, according to the latest weather forecast.

The forest fire headquarters has ordered fire prevention measures to be stepped up in northeast China and Inner Mongolia, which are facing the highest spring fire risk in 60 years.

(Xinhua News Agency April 30, 2008)

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