RUSSIA: Forest Fire Paralyses Siberian City of Khabarovsk
Agence France Presse, 1 October 2001
Khabarovsk.A huge forest fire in the Russian Far East has paralysed the city of Khabarovsk,forcing residents to wear gas masks and closing two airports, the emergenciesministry said on Monday. Around 45,000 hectares (110,000 acres) of woodland havebeen destroyed in more than 20 separate blazes, even reaching the outskirts ofKhabarovsk. Smoke from the blaze mixed with a thick fog reduced visibility,severely disrupting traffic in the city. Health authorities warned of carbonmonoxide levels five times higher than normal and began implementing safetymeasures to protect the local population. Forest protection services werehampered in their efforts to control the flames because of a lack of fuel fortheir planes. Nevertheless, around 30 craft were involved in the operation. Nocasualties have so far been reported. The fires have been blamed on high windsand drought combined with a large number of tourists, said the ministry.