Firefighters work on extinguishing a forest fire that started in Liangshan prefecture of Sichuan province, China. Reuters
Eighteen firefighters and one forestry guide died while fighting a huge forest fire in southwestern China, the local government said on Tuesday.
State television footage showed large flames shooting into the sky from the mountains above the city of Xichang in Sichuan province, turning the sky orange.
Heavy clouds of smoke billowed above the buildings and roads of the city, which has a population of some 700,000 people.
The blaze started near Xichang in the southwestern province's mountainous Liangshan prefecture at 3pm (0700 GMT) on Monday, "directly threatening the safety of Xichang city", the city government said in a Weibo statement on Tuesday morning.
More than 140 fire engines, four helicopters and nearly 900 firefighters have been sent to tackle the blaze, according to local officials.
In total over two thousand emergency workers are involved in rescue efforts to contain the blaze and more than 1,200 local people have been evacuated.
Helicopters were still battling the blaze Tuesday morning.
Several forest fires have broken out in the same prefecture in recent days, reported state news agency Xinhua.
Last April, twenty-seven firefighters were killed in a huge forest fire in Muli County in the same prefecture. Authorities deployed 700 firefighters to the scene.
The fire broke out in a single-story wooden building rented by an unnamed Chinese company and used as a dormitory for the sawmill workers, local authorities said. Firefighters battled the blaze for more than two hours.
There were 34 boarding students on the premises when the fire broke out, according to government staff quoted by Beijing Toutiao News. It was unclear what caused the fire, which injured 16 people, four of whom were in serious condition.
The blaze was put out at 2:30am and an investigation into the cause is underway. All the injured were treated at the hospital and believed to be in stable condition.
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