By Patricia Kingswell 4:16 am PST
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Strong gusts that reached up to levels 8 and 9 (62 – 88 km/h) began sweeping China on Wednesday (March 18), damaging electrical power lines and sparking fires in and around Beijing.

Winds reached hurricane strength of up to level 12 after 8pm, Wednesday in several localities.

Netizens began posting videos of large areas ablaze, after electrical fires set garbage alight and started forest fires. Videos capture flames as they travel through the air, fanned by strong winds.

“There’s a gale. Everything’s on fire,” says one man on video. “There’s a fire in the gale. Did you see that? There’s a fire in the gale! Good lord!” he continues, capturing the smoke and fire as they spread.

Intense fires have been reported in Beijing’s Yanqin and Pinggu districts, as well as in the provinces of Tianjin, Shandong, Shanxi, and Hebei.

“Look at this blaze!” says one couple as they drive through an area ablazed. “Scares the hell out of me! The road ahead is surrounded by fire. We’ve just got off the bridge. We can’t move forward anymore,” they continue, on a video that’s gone live on YouTube.

Then come their panicked voices, “Oh, I can’t take this! Oh no, oh no, my car is on fire!” They’re forced to evacuate.

Firefighters were unable to reach residents in rural areas, who were left to fend for themselves.

Other netizens shared videos of people being blown helplessly across open areas and left clinging onto structures or trees.

In Beijing, strong winds blew off the entire roof of the Liangxiang University Town West subway station and damaged residential buildings.

Hebei residents reported gusts flipping rooftops, and tearing away billboards and traffic lights. Sparks were seen coming off of several torn power lines.

Comments quickly followed videos that went viral:

“I am a resident of Tianjin, so far I have not dared to sleep, in my heart I am very scared, I did not dare to sleep at all.”

“It’s too big … just the wind, the fire is big, pray for peace”.

“Looks more & more like doomsday is coming to #CCP ruled #China,” tweeted author Ms. Zeng on Thursday. “Apart from #CCPVirus #COVID2019 #Coronavirus, fires and gales happening simultaneously in many cities today.”