March 30, 1998 in Nation/World

Help Sought To Fight Fires

Associated Press
 

Officials said Sunday they would ask other countries to lend firefighting planes to help extinguish flames destroying virgin forests in the western Philippine province of Palawan.

The fires have ravaged at least 12,300 acres of forest in two remote mountain towns near the southern tip of Palawan Island, said provincial administrator Federico Virgo.

Palawan, which faces the South China Sea, is about 350 miles southwest of Manila. It has some of the country’s most extensive remaining virgin forests.

“We can’t put out the fire because we have no firefighting capabilities,” Virgo said by telephone from the provincial capital of Puerto Princesa.

He said the province has asked Philippine government officials to seek foreign help to acquire firefighting equipment.

Virgo said about 200 villagers were trying to contain the fires by building fire breaks and beating burning bushes with brooms, but strong winds quickly spread the flames.

Virgo said slash-and-burn farmers are suspected of igniting the fires, which raged out of control because of strong winds and parched lands left by a prolonged drought blamed on El Nino.

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