People in the southern and central provinces of Vietnam are not only suffering from the scorching weather, they are afraid it could lead to forest fires and destroy fields of sugar-cane.

Fires could also seriously affect power supplies to large areas of the country.

The Electric Transmission Company No. 3 has taken steps to set up measures to limit potential risks. Company director Hoang Xuan Phong said transmission units had been working with local authorities and provincial steering committees to improve high-voltage power grid safety.

Phong said sugar factories have also decided to buy cane growing near high-voltage lines early, before it becomes tinder dry. Moreover, the company is working with forest rangers and sugarcane farm owners to lower any foliage risks.

The transmission company has offered financial assistance to farmers who harvest and clear-up sites after harvesting. Safe corridors around endangered power lines have been widened to 10-15m.

Since early this year, the company has cleared about five million square metres of high-risk foliage. And Phong said the company planned to clear another two million square metres by the end this month.

According to company's statistics, the number of forest and sugarcane fires is six to seven times higher this year that in previous years. This has caused big losses for sugarcane farmers in Ninh Hoa district of Khanh Hoa province.

Several big fires spread over thousands of square metres of sugarcane caused power failures on the 220kV-lines in Nha Trang-KrongBuk, said Phong.

The second major cause of fires is clearing land for slash-and-burn cultivation by ethnic minority people.

In April, a forest fire broke out near the 500kV line of Play Ku – Di Linh passed Lak district in Dak Lak province causing a three-hour blackout for some southern and Central Highlands provinces.

The Dak Lak People's Committee has also asked authorities to protect the national grid and told residents living near forests not to burn in hot weather and not to plant trees under power lines.-VNA