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Nation mourns wildfire martyrs

By Wang Keju | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-05 03:42

Contingents of firefighters are joined on Thursday by hundreds of people at a memorial ceremony in Xichang, Sichuan province, honoring the 27 firefighters and three locals
who died while battling a forest fire. ZHONG YUAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

3,000 gather at memorial service in Sichuan; top leaders send wreaths

National flags flew at half-staff in Xichang, capital of the Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in Sichuan province, on Thursday, a day of mourning for the 30 lives lost battling a raging forest fire.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, declared Thursday a day to honor the 30 people who were confirmed on Monday to have died in the blaze — 27 members of the Xichang fire department, a local forestry official, a forestry staff member and a villager. They ranged in age from 19 to 49 years old.

A 50-year-old forestry official, who was missing in the wildfire, was reported on Thursday afternoon to have been killed.

President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Vice-Premier Han Zheng and other leaders sent wreaths to express their condolence.

The fire broke out on Saturday in Muli county, Xichang, and was brought under control on Tuesday. The cause is as of yet unknown.

Grief-­stricken people attend the memorial service. LI JIEYI / CHINA NEWS SERVICE

In Muli, national flags also flew at half-staff on Thursday.

The bodies of 29 of the victims have been transported from the scene of the disaster to the city of Xichang. The relatives of one victim requested that he be buried where he died.

More than 3,000 people, among them government officials, victims' family members and students, attended the memorial and observed a moment of silence in honor of the dead.

Scores of people with flowers and mourning banners gathered outside the site of the ceremony in Xichang.

A memorial was held at the same time in the Ministry of Emergency Management in Beijing, and many local fire departments and people across the nation honored the victims in spontaneous memorial ceremonies.

The Liangshan government issued a statement suspending public entertainment and activities across the autonomous prefecture on Thursday.

Monday was the deadliest day for emergency workers in China since the Ministry of Emergency Management was formed last year.

Xu Erfeng, director of the ministry's political department, said at the Xichang ceremony that the 27 firefighters have been officially recognized as martyrs and were awarded first-class merit citations by the ministry and the Sichuan provincial government. Eleven of the firefighters were also approved as members of the Communist Party of China.

Sichuan Vice-Governor Peng Yu­xing said the other three victims were also officially recognized as martyrs.

Huang Ming, Party secretary of the ministry, said that over the past 70 years, 719 firefighters have sacrificed their lives to protect public safety. The ministry will strengthen the regularization, specialization and professionalization of the China's firefighters and enhance their emergency management capabilities.

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