Forest fire in China's Sichuan threatens giant pandas, other rare species

A massive forest fire in China is threatening the habitats of giant pandas and other rare species in the inland province of Sichuan.

State-run China Central Television reported that a fire broke out on Friday in a forest in Yajiang in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and strong winds helped the blaze spread to other areas.

Local authorities in Yajiang say the affected areas are at altitudes of over 2,000 meters and are home to such rare species as the golden takin -- an animal in the bovine family -- and the golden snub-nosed monkey, as well as the giant panda.

Footage shows red flames engulfing mountainsides with plumes of white smoke billowing from all across the areas.

Over 1,200 firefighters are reportedly battling the fire, assisted by several helicopters. More than 700 personnel are also expected to be dispatched from fire departments in the neighboring province of Yunnan.

China's state-run media say damage has been reported from 11 villages and more than 3,000 people have been forced to evacuate, but no casualties have been confirmed so far.

There have been no reports of deaths or injuries of any wild animals, though concerns are rising that the rare species could be affected.