Firefighters in southwest China contained a forest blaze on Tuesday after it claimed the lives of 27 firefighters and three others, local officials said.
Nearly 700 firefighters were deployed to battle the fire, which broke out on Saturday on steep, remote terrain at an altitude of around 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) in Muli County, Sichuan province.
The blaze was contained around midday on Tuesday, though some areas are still burning, said Wu Song, county chief of Muli, according to Xinhua.
‘Due to complex terrain, we need more time to extinguish the fire,’ Wu added.
Five helicopters have also been deployed to help in firefighting efforts, said Tang Yi, head of safety enforcement at Liangshan Prefecture at a press conference on Tuesday.
Local authorities had lost contact with the 30 victims Sunday afternoon after a sudden change in wind direction ignited a ‘huge fireball’, authorities previously said.
Twenty seven were firefighters, two forestry officials and one local volunteer. Authorities had initially said all 30 were firefighters.
Most of the bodies were taken to a funeral parlour in Xichang city early Tuesday, the fire department said.
Footage posted to their official social media page showed scores of residents lining a road where the hearses passed through, many holding stalks of chrysanthemum -- a traditional Chinese symbol of mourning.
Of the dead, a number were from Sichuan province, with the youngest victim just 18 years old, and many in their early 20s.
They have been lauded as heroes who died in the line of duty, with several official websites, including the ministry of emergency management, turning their pages monochromatic as a mark of respect.
Chinese authorities on late Monday also issued a red alert -- the highest level -- warning of forest fires in the northern areas of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Shanxi.
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