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China Sees 7,800-plus Forest Fires from Jan.-Nov. as Drought Persists in South

China recorded 7,861 forest fires, which killed 55 people, from January to November this year, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) reported on Wednesday.

Statistics from the national forestry fire prevention headquarters show that these fires damaged more than 22,000 hectares of forest.

No information on the causes of all fires was provided. However, average temperatures in China rose by 1.1 degree this autumn, increasing the fire risk in forest areas. Some southern areas also experienced a severe drought. For example, rainfall recorded in Jiangxi province over the past three months was lowest since 1960.

Scientists have forecast continued drought in the near future.

Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu earlier this month called for greater vigilance against forest fires in drought-stricken southern regions.

He also discussed planning and scientific leadership to prevent loss of life in forest fires and promised severe penalties for officials whose dereliction of duty caused significant loss of life in forest fires.

Although no nationwide breakdown of forest fire origins was available, there was some information for southern China for most of the year. Human factors, such as land clearing and discarded cigarettes, were behind 4,768 forest fires, or 98.3 percent of the 4,850 fires in southern regions where causes were specified from January to October, according to the SFA.

There were 7,946 forest fires reported in 2006, down 39.9 percent from the average of the previous years. The SFA didn't specify the time range for that average, but it has been previously reported that from 1988 to last year, an average of 7,500 forest fires occurred annually in China, according to SFA figures.

(Xinhua News Agency December 13, 2007)

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