The forest fire in Yajiang, Sichuan has been spreading for four days. Tibetans question the slow rescue efforts : China The forest fire in Yajiang, Sichuan has been spreading for four days. Tibetans question the slow rescue efforts : China

The forest fire in Yajiang, Sichuan has been spreading for four days. Tibetans question the slow rescue efforts : China

The forest fire in Yajiang, Sichuan has been spreading for four days. Tibetans question the slow rescue efforts : China

Recently, a forest fire broke out in Yajiang County, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, and the fire has been burning for four days. Some overseas Tibetans questioned the slow speed of rescue operations by the authorities.

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According to comprehensive Chinese media reports, at about 17:00 on March 15, a forest fire broke out in Baizi Village, Xiala Town, Yajiang County, Garze Prefecture, Sichuan. According to news released by CCTV on March 17, a total of 11 villages, 837 households, and 3,396 people were affected by the fire. All relevant personnel have been safely relocated, and there are no casualties yet.

Netizen: The sky is turning yellow in Chengdu, 400 kilometers away

Many videos of the Yajiang fire posted online showed raging flames coming out of the forest and thick smoke filling the sky. Some netizens said: "Is the end of the world coming?" and "In Chengdu, which is more than 400 kilometers away, the sky is turning yellow." Related videos show that the fire is about to engulf a building, with someone coughing and choking on smoke, and others shouting: "Even the dormitory is on fire." Another netizen posted news that on the afternoon of March 16, while driving on National Highway 318, he encountered a strong wind of level 8. The flying fire lit up the entire Yajiang County, and the car in front of him could not be seen while driving in the smoke.

A forest fire started in Yajiang, Garze Prefecture, Sichuan on the 15th. Strong winds caused the fire to spread rapidly and across multiple hills. At least 1,882 fire rescue teams were dispatched to fight the fire, and more than 5,900 people in three towns evacuated their homes. 
Radio Free Asia's Tibetan and English teams show a sea of ​​fire behind a Tibetan Buddhist temple. The temple looks like it is about to be swallowed up. Small animals are running in front of it. Monks are facing the temple chanting sutras and praying for blessings. Tibetans formed a human chain on the steep mountain with their bare hands, passing water basins up the mountain hand in hand to put out the fire. Among them, there were also Han Chinese wearing uniforms with "Yajiang Prosecutor" written on their vests to help pass the water.


Tibetans worry about two monasteries being burned down

Dawa Tsering, an official of the Tibetan government in exile and director of the Tibetan Policy Research Center in Dharamsala, India, said in an interview with Radio Free Asia on the 19th that Yajiang Tibetans are very worried that two Tibetan Buddhist temples will be affected and burned down, one of which is Tenzin. Dele Rinpoche founded it during his lifetime. Monasteries in Tibetan areas were built with the joint efforts of local Tibetans and are holy places and spiritual sustenance for the inheritance of Tibetan Buddhism.

CCTV reported that as of 1:30 on the 17th, due to strong winds and unstable wind directions at the fire scene, the fire spread in multiple directions, forming three main fire scenes. The local organization organized a local professional fire-fighting team of 549 people and 8 helicopters to participate in the firefighting; 1,038 people from the national fire rescue team arrived at the fire scene in Yajiang County, and 257 people were on standby in Kangding City.

Tibetans: It took 2 days to see the government rescue team

But Dawa Tsering mentioned that local Tibetans said they only saw the official firefighting team on the 17th: "The fire started on the 15th. The local Tibetans went to put out the fire together. Some people dug fire pits, fearing that the fire would reach the monastery. , at home. On the 16th, the fire became bigger and bigger. He said that it might be smoke drifting to Sichuan or local media reported it. On the 17th, firefighters began to come to put out the fire. On the 15th and 16th, they were all local Tibetans and some Enthusiastic people put out fires.”

Dawa Tsering said that because Tibetans did not have professional fire-fighting equipment, they could only pull out weeds and dig fire pits to put out the fire. The fire spread and the wind was strong, and it had spread to other places. He mentioned that in the video of the Yajiang forest fire circulating on the Internet, a conversation between two people could be heard. A said, "Is the government coming?" B said, "No." A said, "It's too late."

Exiled Tibetan Sagar Tashi also said in an interview with Radio Free Asia on the 19th: "It's just very slow. Their official website said that the disaster relief situation has been extinguished in the direction of Line 1 and Line 18, and Line 2 and Line 3 have not yet been extinguished. . It has been 4 days and it has not been completely extinguished until today.

On the 19th, our reporter called the Yajiang City Fire Rescue Detachment, Yajiang Municipal Government and Public Security Bureau, Garze Prefecture Fire Detachment and many local shops in Yajiang to learn about the situation. However, either there is interruption noise and the call cannot be dialed, or the other party cannot hear the sound when they pick up the call. Before the deadline, the reporter was unable to contact relevant local personnel.

Official positive propaganda: Rescue workers wet their clothes and went up the mountain after the fire hit them

At the same time, official “positive energy” propaganda videos and reports began to appear on China’s Weibo. A video titled "Firefighting in Yajiang, Sichuan" shows several firefighters fetching water from the stream. The text read: The fire was coming, the rescuers wet their clothes and went up the mountain. On March 18, the open fire at the No. 1 forest fire site in Yajiang, Sichuan was extinguished. The two fire scenes No. 2 and No. 3 were also successfully fought according to the established plan. The relevant text introduction of another video reads: On March 18, Dali forest firefighting personnel moved directly from the Lincang fire scene to the local area, and the villagers presented their own local eggs to eat on the road.

The official China News Network also used the title "Sichuan Yajiang Forest Fire Front Line: The Eye-catching "Orange" in the Gray-Black Woodland" to promote the heroic efforts of firefighting team members wearing orange firefighting suits to put out the fire.

Dawa Cairen said that Chinese officials usually conceal the matter and pretend it did not happen. This time the fire was visible to people in other places, and it broke out because it couldn't be concealed. The official narrative approach is often to treat "funerals as happy events" and "disasters as heroic deeds." For the Tibetans, they are still very grateful that the military fire brigade finally sent aircraft and other fire-fighting equipment to help put out the fire and avoid more losses. He reported that, in particular, the local area is semi-agricultural and semi-pastoral, with forests and shrubs, making it an important producing area for matsutake mushrooms. This fire caused heavy losses to the growth of local matsutake mushrooms, and local Tibetans are worried about their future livelihoods.

Sagar Tashi said that the main source of income for local Tibetans is Cordyceps sinensis, and there are also many mushrooms in the forest. Tibetans who rely on those plants have suffered a great loss, and their future lives may be very difficult.

According to Chinese media reports, at 14:30 on the 16th, strong winds suddenly broke out at the fire scene, with the instantaneous wind force reaching level 8 or above. The eastern front of the fire rekindled due to strong winds and quickly spread over multiple hills. According to the meteorological department, the average wind force of the fire field is 4 to 5, and the maximum wind is 9 to 10. The fire field is a mountainous terrain, with the Yalong River 400 meters to the west. The average altitude of the fire field is 2,600 meters, with a slope of 70°~80°, and the vegetation is green hills. Mainly forest and pine trees.

Sagar Tashi said that fires are frequent in the Yajiang area. Fires occurred in 2018 and 2023, and this time it was bigger than the previous two. News of an earthquake recently broke out in Yushu, Qinghai Province. The Tibetan areas are experiencing many disasters, which is very sad to see.

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