Smoke plumes from fires burning in Nijni Novgorod Region
continue to cover Moscow region. Source: MODIS Terra scene
(aquired on 3 August 2010, 500 m resolution).
News from the media:
WWF: Forest fires are the consequences of poor Forest Code (3 August 2010)
New legislation liquidated state forest fire control system and prescribed forest leaseholders and regional authorities responsible for forest fire protection. Due to the WWF opinion, they are not able to cope with their responsibility.
Following Forest Code actively criticized by ecologists, forest protection in areas leased is realized by leaseholders following forest use project. In forests not in lease local authorities of Russian Federation regions carry out forest protection.
Development of fire protection system including firebreaks with and without roads, helicopter landing grounds, fire control machineries and equipment and fuel stores are among the responsibilities of leaseholders and local authorities. “As a rule, so expensive activity is a burden on small and middle size leaseholders and forest protection has only formal character”, Nikolai Shmatkov, coordinator of forestry politics WWF Russia says.
Before abruptly decreasing of financing in 90s of last century and adopting new Forest Code forest fire protection was main task of state forest fire control system, Nikolai Shmatkov says. In each leskhoz (forestry management enterprise) foresters inspected their forests and made fire protection work there. The system of forest fire lookouts was in use for early fire detection to suppress it in small, there was trained and qualified special staff with special machinery and equipment to control forest fires.
WWF also notes some causes of fires. One of the causes of peat fires that they have been dried in former soviet times to build summerhouses, to use peat as fuel in power stations and to make fertilizers. Peat left after that in a bog could be ignited and can burn long time because the oxygen in dry peat is enough to support smoldering in deep layers where it is impossible to suppress. Early detection and restoration of bogs are among effective measures to control peat fires. It will solve a number of other important ecological problems along with fire protection. Bogs are important for biodiversity as they have places for nesting birds and many endangered plants including orchids and they perform important function in water balance.
Following WWF, increasing number of fires also connected with global climate change. According to Rosgidromet data last 15 years number of dangerous hydro meteorological phenomena as prolonged periods of droughts and hot weather creating conditions for catastrophic wildfires increased two times.
According to EMERCOM report, total number of fatalities in Central and Volga regions achieved 34 persons. Currently 7000 wildfires are active in Russia. Emergency fire situation remains in 14 regions of Russia. Fully destroyed by wildfires are some settlements.
Новое законодательство ликвидировало государственную лесную охрану и назначило ответственными за предотвращение лесных пожаров арендаторов лесов и региональные органы власти. По мнению WWF, они не справляются с этой задачей.
Согласно Лесному кодексу, который вступил в силу 1 января 2007 и подвергся активной критике со стороны экологов, “меры пожарной безопасности на лесных участках, предоставленных в аренду, осуществляются арендаторами этих лесных участков на основании проекта освоения лесов”. В лесах, не переданных в аренду, за противопожарную работу отвечают органы власти субъектов РФ.
К числу мер, за которые отвечают арендаторы и региональные власти, относится противопожарное обустройство лесов, в том числе строительство противопожарных дорог, посадочных площадок для вертолетов, прокладка просек, содержание пожарной техники и запасов горюче-смазочных материалов. “Как правило, такая дорогостоящая деятельность – непосильное бремя для небольших и средних арендаторов, и противопожарное обустройство носит формальный характер”, – говорит Николай Шматков, координатор по лесной политике WWF России.
До резкого сокращения финансирования в 90-е годы и принятия нового Лесного кодекса, борьба с пожарами была одной из основных задач государственной лесной охраны, рассказывает Николай Шматков. В каждом лесхозе лесники обходили свои участки леса, ведя профилактическую работу по предотвращению пожаров. Действовали система наблюдательных пунктов и вышек для выявления пожаров на ранних стадиях, когда их еще можно быстро потушить, был штат сотрудников, специально обученных тушить лесные пожары, со специальным оборудованием для пожаротушения и экипировкой.
WWF отмечает еще несколько факторов, вызвавших пожары. Одна из причин торфяных пожаров – это массовое осушение болот в советское время под строительство дач, а также для добычи торфа в качестве топлива для получения электроэнергии и производства удобрений. Торф, который остается на месте болота, легко воспламеняется и может гореть очень долго, потому что количество воздуха в сухом торфе достаточно, чтобы он тлел изнутри даже на большой глубине, где его трудно потушить. Эффективные меры по борьбе с торфяными пожарами, по мнению WWF – это выявление пожаров на ранних стадиях и рекультивация заброшенных мест добычи торфа для восстановления болот. Помимо противопожарного эффекта, эта мера позволит решить ряд других важных экологических проблем. Болота важны для сохранения биологического разнообразия, так как являются местом гнездования десятков видов птиц и обитания многих редких растений, в том числе, орхидей, и выполняют важную функцию по регулированию водного баланса.
По мнению WWF, рост числа пожаров также связан с глобальным изменением климата. По данным Росгидромета, за последние 15 лет число опасных гидрометеорологических явлений, к которым относятся продолжительные периоды жаркой и засушливой погоды, создающей условия для катастрофических пожаров, выросло в 2 раза.
По сообщению Министерства чрезвычайных ситуаций, общее число погибших из-за природных пожаров в центральной России и Поволжье составило 34 человека. В настоящее время на территории России действует около 7 тыс. очагов природных пожаров. Чрезвычайная пожарная обстановка сохраняется в 14 регионах России. Некоторые населенные пункты в них полностью уничтожены огнем.
The hottest summer on record has dried out Russia, causing drought and wildfires, without any end in sight.
After a month of baking hot temperatures, wildfires are exploding across Russia at the rate of 300 a day, emergency officials said Tuesday.
While officials say they doused most fires within hours, the week-long fire epidemic is taking its toll: at least 40 dead, 2,000 homes burned, and about 100,000 people evacuated. Fifty peat bog fires now ring Moscow, infiltrating a gray haze through the onion domes of the Kremlin and the glass towers of the financial district.
Things could get worse
Now, weather forecasters say it could get worse.
After enduring the hottest July since record keeping started in the czarist era, Moscow residents face a week of temperatures forecast to hit 38 C daily through Saturday.
Zinaida Esipova is a retiree from Lipetskaya Oblast.
She says she placed icons around the ashes of her village and then told a reporter from Russia’s First Channel how scared she was when flames came from all sides, burning 11 houses
Although all the villagers survived, shifting winds are turning firefighting battles into wars.
On Tuesday, Sergei Kiriyenko, Russia’s nuclear chief, flew to the Russian Federal Nuclear Center in Sarov, about 500 kilometers east of Moscow. On Monday, flames spread to the fences of Sarov, a closed city where Russia’s nuclear bombs are developed. On Tuesday, water tanker planes and hundreds of firefighters fought to protect Sarov, sister city of Los Alamos, New Mexico, home of the U.S. nuclear weapons design laboratory.
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Medvedev on Tuesday that the situation at Sarov is ‘quite complex’. He told the president that 155,000 emergency personnel are fighting fires around the nation, but several are “out of control.”
Last Thursday, flames roared through a Navy supply base 100 kilometers east of Moscow. In response, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered soldiers to dig trenches and fell trees to create fire breaks around military bases and nuclear plants.
With state television crews in tow, the prime minister has toured burned out villages and lectured regional officials. After meeting villagers grieving in front of their destroyed houses, Mr. Putin promised on camera that the government would spend $200 million to rebuild all damaged houses before Russia’s notorious winter descends in November.
Mr. Putin’s highly visible, shirtsleeves tour is seen by many analysts as yet another indication that he plans to run for a third term as president in elections 18 months from now. By contrast, President Medvedev, his protégé, has stayed deskbound in the Kremlin, essentially lecturing Russians not to play with matches.
In a nationwide address Monday night, Russia’s president said: “With the cities sweltering in this stifling heat, of course, we want to get out and escape into nature. But here, we have to be extremely attentive, extremely careful, because even a single match left burning could spark an irreparable tragedy.”
State of emergency
The president also declared a state of emergency in seven regions. Parks and forest will be closed to picnickers in an effort to minimize wildfires from runaway campfires and barbecues.
Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, made a nationwide appeal for the faithful -in his words- “to unite in one prayer to God that he send rains to our scorched soil.”
But even if rains were to come this weekend, it would be too late for much of the nation’s grain crop.
On Tuesday, Alexander Belyayev, Russia’s deputy agriculture minister, estimated that drought will cut Russia’s grain harvest by about 25 percent compared to last year. On Monday, the Russian Grain Union, a farm group, estimated that grain exports could drop by half this year.
Russia is the world’s third largest wheat exporter and fears about the crop shortfall have sent world wheat prices up almost 50 percent since early June.
Russia admits some wildfires are out of control
Some of the devastating wildfires sweeping western Russia are out of control, Russia’s emergency chief said Tuesday, as fears grew there were not enough firefighters to battle them.
Tens of thousands of troops and volunteers were helping some 10,000 firefighters battle blazes in more than a dozen western Russian provinces, seven of which were under a state of emergency.
Their efforts had saved more than 300 towns and villages from destruction in the last day, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said, according to Russian media.
“But in some places it is getting out of control,” Shoigu was quoted as telling President Dmitry Medvedev during a meeting near the southern city of Sochi.
His words contradicted days of reassurances by his subordinates that the fires were under control. So far, they have 40 people and destroyed nearly 2,000 homes, as they tore through hundreds of villages in a matter of minutes, taking locals by surprise.
The ministry criticized local officials on Tuesday for not doing enough to stem the blazes, despite Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warning earlier that those who did not respond adequately risked losing their jobs.
“Everyone must realize the measure of their responsibility,” said Vladimir Stepanov of the head of Emergencies Ministry’s crisis center. Municipal authorities “must mobilize all their forces, not just sit and wait for fire brigades to arrive.”
The weather this week will not likely help the effort, as temperatures in Moscow and to the south and east were forecast to reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit).
Putin said Tuesday he would personally supervise the reconstruction of fire-ravaged homes via video cameras to be installed at each construction site, and would broadcast the images to the government website.
Putin has promised new housing before winter for those made homeless, as well as 200,000 rubles ($6,700) in compensation.
Victims have expressed outrage that more wasn’t done ahead of time to repel the advancing infernos.
“It was a nightmare,” said Margarita Sholokhova, pacing forlornly near the remains of her home in the village of Kadanok, 90 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Moscow.
“There were too many fires and not enough firefighters. We stayed in our house until the last possible minute, but the fire came and covered the whole village like a hat,” she said.
Four brick walls and a heavy iron stove of her modest provincial house were all that remained after wildfires swept through Kadanok three days ago. Her mother’s house next door was also among the dozen homes wiped out in the town, but a dozen others escaped damage.
Trenches are being dug and trees felled around several nuclear facilities, news agencies reported.
At the Russian Federal Nuclear Center in Sarov, 300 miles (485 kilometers) east of Moscow, fire reportedly breached the territory’s perimeter Monday. The flames were being doused by water-bearing planes, and hundreds of firefighters were working to keep the flames from any facilities.
The country’s nuclear chief, Sergei Kiriyenko, flew to Sarov on Tuesday to oversee firefighting efforts, Russian news agencies said.
Russia will accept foreign assistance to combat forest fires
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that Russia will accept assistance in fighting forest fires offered by other states.
Medvedev said at a meeting with Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu that he had already received offers of assistance from abroad.
Shoigu, for his part, said that Ukraine had offered Russia two Antonov An-32 airplanes to support firefighting efforts.
Azerbaijan is ready to send two helicopters purchased from Russia two years ago, he said.
“I ask you to allow us to include them in our general response plan,” Shoigu said, adding that 60 aircraft will be used to combat forest fires.
“Of course, I give you my permission. We are grateful to all of our partners,” Medvedev said.
Russia’s already long heat wave will continue to sweep across half of Russia’s federal districts this week, the leading hydrometeorology research center Gidrometcenter reported on its website Tuesday.
Daytime temperatures will reach 33-38 degrees Celsius in the center of the country’s European zone between August 3 and 8, and 42 degrees in the east of the Moscow region, and in the Ryazan, Vladimir, Tula, Oryol, Lipetsk, Tambov, Voronezh, Belgorod and Kursk regions.
The air will warm up to 35-40 degrees on a large part of the Volga federal district from August 3 to 9, and to 42 degrees in its southern part.
Daytime temperatures will rise to 39-42 degrees in the Southern and the North Caucasus federal districts, and to 43 degrees in the Astrakhan region, with high risks of forest fires breaking out between August 3 and 5.
Heavy rains and thunderstorms are likely in the northwestern part of Russia’s European zone – in the Murmansk region and in Karelia on Tuesday, and in the Komi republic on Wednesday and Thursday.
The intense heat will continue in the Novgorod and Leningrad regions between August 4 and 8, with daily temperatures reaching 34-39 degrees Celsius.
The risk of wildfires will remain high and sometimes extremely high in the south of the Northwestern federal district, and in the Murmansk region and Karelia from August 3-5.
Heat will persist in the southern Urals on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching 37 degrees in the daytime. Showers, thunderstorms and hail are likely in Chelyabinsk region with winds developing a speed of 20-24 meters per second. Fire risks will be high and sometimes extremely high in the district from Tuesday to Thursday.
Heavy rains, thunderstorms and winds with a speed of 15-20 meters per second are expected in Siberia – in the Transbaikal Territory and in Buryatia. The risk of fires will be high and sometimes very high in the Tomsk region from Tuesday to Thursday.
Heavy rains are also likely in the Far East – in Yakutia and the Amur region on Tuesday and Wednesday, and in northern Sakhalin on Thursday and Friday. High winds with a speed of up to 28 meters per second are expected on the coast of Chukotka near Anadyr. Showers and thunderstorms are expected in Khabarovsk Territory. Heavy rains and high winds with a speed of 20-25 meters per second are likely in the north of Kamchatka Territory on August 7 and 8.
EMERCOM: 776 wildfires are registered in Russia
3 August 2010.
EMERCOM of Russia informs that 776 wildfires are registered in Russian Federation including 57 peat fires.
a) forest fires:
During twenty-four hours 323 wildfires have been discovered and 247 of them were suppressed. 529 wildfires are still active on area 172371 hectares in comparison with previous 24 hours having 461 wildfires on area 115059 hectares. 378 wildfires are contained on area 127671 hectares. 70 large wildfires are active on area 116944 ha.
As a result of wildfires transfer to settlements were destroyed:
EMERCOM informs that there were no additional victims and fatalities.
b) peat fires:
During 24 hours 57 peat fires started, 56 peat fires are still active (51 -Central Federal Okrug (FO): 50 – Moscow Oblast, 1 Ivanovo Oblast, 3 Volga FO (Kirov Oblast), 1 – Ural FO (Sverdlovsk Oblast) 1- North-West FO (Vologda FO).
From the beginning of 2010 fire season 23656 wildfires started on total area 648555 ha in Russian Federation including 854 peat fires on area 1069 ha.
155,766 persons, 25,034 machineries including 56 aircrafts were involved in wildfires suppression. 129,161 persons, 19,343 machineries, including 20 aircraft were involved from EMERCOM of Russia in forest fire fighting.
Large forest fire in Dobrovsk area of Lipetsk region of Russia destroyed the town Dalni (Greenpeace of Russia, 3 August 2010)
Large forest fire has started yestarday in Dobrovsky area of the Lipetsk region near the Voronezh river. It is thirty kilometres to the northeast from Lipetsk. By the night the area covered by fire has reached approximately seven thousand hectares. The fire has almost completely destroyed the town (total 67 houses), according to the Ministry of Emergency Situations (Emercom), it has burnt down 47 houses (in the message of the Emercom this settlement for some reason is called “Dolgi”). One more settlement – Maloozersky – is evacuated, what there a situation at present, is not known. The information arriving from official bodies as usual, some embellishes a situation – for example, the Lipetsk city portal writes that “according to the Forestry Department of Lipetsk region, the fire has burned about 60 hectares of forest”.
Lipetsk region was not included into seven regions in which the day before by the Ukaz of the president of Russian Federation D.A.Medvedev has been declared Emergency Situation, but in general a situation with forest fires in this region is catastrophic. The president in general has strongly underestimated quantity of regions in which the situation with forest fires has got out of control and has reached accidental level – such regions, by the most modest estimations in Russia not less than twenty.
The problem most likely consists that the majority of the high-ranking officials of Federal and Regional levels are more anxious to save own parts bodies, than real struggle against forest fires – in this connection try to underestimate in every possible way scales of fire accident and to pretend that all under control. Therefore decisions on involvement of additional resources to fight forest fires as usual are accepted too late therefore it is not possible to avoid a huge damage to forest, to settlements and objects of an infrastructure, and frequently there are also human victims.
Крупный лесной пожар в Добровском районе Липецкой области уничтожил поселок Дальний (Гринпис России)
Крупный лесной пожар разгорелся за прошедшие сутки в Добровском районе Липецкой области у истока реки Воронеж, в тридцати километрах к северо-востоку от Липецка. К ночи площадь, пройденная огнем, достигла примерно семи тысяч гектаров. Пожар практически полностью уничтожил поселок Дальний – из 67 домов, по данным МЧС, сгорело 47 (в сообщении МЧС этот поселок почему-то называется “Долгий”). Еще один поселок – Малоозерский – эвакуирован, какая там ситуация на данный момент, неизвестно. Информация, поступающая от официальных органов, как водится, несколько приукрашивает ситуацию – например, Липецкий городской портал пишет, что “по сведениям управления лесного хозяйства Липецкой области, пожар охватил около 60 гектаров леса”.
Липецкая область не вошла в семь регионов, в которых накануне указом президента Российской Федерации Д.А.Медведева было объявлено чрезвычайное положение, но вообще ситуация с лесными пожарами в этой области катастрофическая. Президент вообще сильно недооценил количество регионов, в которых ситуация с лесными пожарами вышла из-под контроля и достигла уровня катастрофы – таких регионов, по самым скромным оценкам, в России не менее двадцати.
Проблема, по всей видимости, состоит в том, что большинство высокопоставленных чиновников федерального и регионального уровней больше озабочено спасением своих филейных частей, чем реальной борьбой с лесными пожарами – в связи с чем пытается всячески занижать масштабы пожарной катастрофы и делать вид, что контролирует ситуацию. Поэтому решения по привлечению дополнительных средств к борьбе с лесными пожарами, как правило, принимаются слишком поздно, в результате чего не удается избежать огромного ущерба лесам, населенным пунктам и объектам инфраструктуры, а часто и человеческих жертв.
Death toll rises in Russian fires
The death toll from fires raging across Russia has risen to 40, as millions in Moscow were confronted with a haze of smoke.
The fires came after weeks of searing heat and practically no rain. Although temperatures in the Moscow area dipped over the weekend, experts predict they will climb back to around 38C this week.
Firefighters reported making some headway against the blazes that have destroyed hundreds of homes, burned through vast sections of tinder-dry land and forced thousands to evacuate.
Vladimir Stepanov, head of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry’s crisis centre, said about 500 new wildfires were sparked nationwide in the past 24 hours but most of them were immediately doused.
“Most importantly, the mission we are tasked with – to avert the spread of fires to population centres, and to avoid more death – is being accomplished,” he said..
Moscow awoke to the burning smell from the smouldering peat bogs south and east of the capital, haze that has increased the city’s already-high pollution.
Wildfires were still burning across some 300,000 acres, mostly in central and western Russia, slightly less than the area engulfed in flames over the weekend.
About 1,500 homes have been wiped out by fires.
In all, wildfires were reported in 17 of Russia’s regions. President Dmitry Medvedev declared a state of emergency in seven of them, including the area that surrounds, but does not include, Moscow.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on warned that local officials who do not respond adequately to the fires are in danger of losing their jobs. “I recommend the heads of municipalities about whom citizens have big doubts should step down,” he said.
Central Russia blanketed in smog as wildfires continue
The highway leading to the Vladimir region east of Moscow, where wildfire has been raging for days, is blanketed in smoke, which turns thicker and thicker with every mile of driving.
Approaching the town of Noginsk, where the Russian Emergency Ministry’s principal base is located, drivers have to turn on their cars’ fog lamps and switch the air conditioners to internal circulation mode, in order to prevent the turbid smoke from coming in.
It is difficult to see through the smog, and it is hard to breathe outside.
Actually, many drivers have opted to make a U-turn there, some 67 km east of the Russian capital, trying to bypass the area via some side roads.
It is still a tricky task. Many side roads have been ditched, to stop cars from getting into unsafe areas in the woods, after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin demanded governors of the fire-stricken regions to restrain residents from visiting the forests.
“Citizens’ negligence costs too much for us,” said Putin.
And for tens of thousands of local residents, there is no place to escape or switch to. According to the Health Ministry, the number of people killed by the fire in six regions has so far climbed up to 40.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday declared a state of emergency in seven regions engulfed by the wildfires, and restricted citizens’ entries to certain areas.
All the regions were in the central part of Russia, including Moscow, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Mariy El, Mordovia, Voronezh and Ryazan.
“Thousands of our citizens lost everything in the blink of an eye. This is a terrible tragedy,” Medvedev wrote in his blog.
Even before the presidential decree, some local authorities have already tried to keep people away from the forests.
However, all the government measures seem to be weak and insufficient in the face of the raging blazes.
Twenty-four more people died in the wildfires in the Volga region on Monday, Grigory Rapota, the presidential representative to the region, was quoted as saying by local media.
In the region of Nizhny Novgorod, some 400 km east of Moscow, the international airport has been closed at least until Tuesday because of heavy smoke posing a threat to safe landing.
Fifty more houses were burnt to ashes in the Lipetsk region the same day, according to Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The Emergency Situations Ministry announced on Monday it was going to purchase eight planes specially equipped with fire- fighting machinery, and to assemble a fire extinguishing equipment on the Defense Ministry’s planes and helicopters.
Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Vladimir Zhirinovsky, well- known for his flamboyant remarks, urged his colleagues to cut short their summer breaks and travel to those fire-affected regions.
According to the latest estimation from the Regional Development Ministry, the total compensation for those who lost their homes in the fires will reach 6.4 billion rubles (212 million U.S. dollars), up from the previously estimated 166 million dollars.
Meteorologists warned that the fire-incited fog in Moscow may stay for at least one more week.
Russian Patriarch Prays For Rain As Wildfires Rage
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill asked Russians to pray for rain on Sunday as wildfires raged across the European parts of the vast country, sweltering since June in an unprecedented heat wave.
The hottest weather since records began 130 years ago has withered crops and pushed thousands of farmers to the verge of bankruptcy.
The Emergencies Ministry said that as of Sunday morning, 774 fires, including 369 that started since Saturday, were raging in an area totaling about 130,000 hectares (500 sq miles), about the size of the administrative area of the city of Los Angeles.
At least 28 people have died in wildfires in European Russia in the past few days, the ministry said and more than 5,200 people have been evacuated.
“Grief has come to our nation, human lives have been lost, hundreds have lost shelter and thousands have been left without sustenance, including many children,” national media quoted Patriarch Kirill as saying in a prayer during a visit to the Nizhny Novgorod region, one of the worst hit by fires.
“I call upon everyone to unite in a prayer for rain to descend on our earth.”
Thick smoke from nearby forest fires blanketed a magnificent monastery where Kirill, clad in a richly embroidered gold cloak, conducted an outdoor liturgy glorifying a Russian saint, Russia’s NTV channel showed.
The mainly elderly worshippers stood on their knees as Kirill prayed for rain. “This (fires) is punishment sent to us for sins,” a woman worshipper told NTV.
“We should do only good deeds and pray.”
Itar-Tass news agency quoted Nizhny Novgorod Governor Valery Shantsev as saying fire fighters were trying to prevent fires in a nature reserve in next-door Mordovia from reaching the Russian Federal Nuclear Center in his region.
“We would like to employ aircraft to take part in putting out the flames, but it cannot work at the moment … due to low visibility,” he said.
The nuclear center, now a premiere research facility, was a top-secret location in Soviet times codenamed Arzamas-16, or simply “the Site,” where the first Soviet atomic and hydrogen bombs were designed in the Cold War weapons race with the United States.
RISK OF MORE SEVERE FIRES
The Emergencies Ministry said it saw no immediate respite.
“The threat of new fires has increased sharply due to unfavorable weather in a number of regions in the Central and Volga federal districts, with temperatures soaring to up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and winds of up to 20 meters per second,” the ministry said.
The drought in Russia, one of the world’s biggest wheat exporters, has sent global prices soaring to year highs. U.S. wheat futures rose more than 5 percent on Friday and posted the biggest monthly percentage gain since at least 1959.
Around 240,000 people were battling the flames, the Emergencies Ministry said. Army units, including elite paratroops, were taking part in the fight.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to allocate 5 billion roubles ($165 million) to help fire victims.
Wheat Prices Surge As Fires Burn Massive Crop In Russia
Brush fires are burning throughout Russia right now, as the country comes to grips with a heat wave that has dried out fields and led to the destruction of homes and lives.
But the fires and heat have also destroyed this year’s wheat crop, sending prices surging. Prices have risen faster than anytime since 1973, according to the Financial Times, with a 50% price increase since June.
And its all about the drought in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. The problems can also be found in Canadian fields, though that is a result of too much rain, rather than too little.
Russia declares emergency in bushfire battle
President Dmitry Medvedev has declared a state of emergency in seven Russian regions over the worst wildfires in a generation as the death toll rose to 40.
Amid unusual public criticism that the authorities were slow to react to the spreading fires last week, prime minister Vladimir Putin ordered regional governors at an urgent meeting to present a detailed reconstruction plan.
Mr Medvedev declared the emergency in seven regions in European Russia – Mairi El, Mordovia, Vladimir, Voronezh, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan.
The decree allows the authorities to restrict public access to areas where their presence could pose a fire hazard, and to call on the armed forces to put out and prevent fires, according to a summary posted on the Kremlin website.
“Remember that any tossed away match can lead to an irreparable disaster. That is the way things are,” Mr Medvedev said in a televised address.
“Our main task today is to help the victims return to normal life.”
Mr Putin also raised the possibility of calling in volunteers to reinforce the firefighters.
“Everyone and all our equipment are working to the limit … If necessary, we could mobilise volunteers and personnel from businesses,” he said.
The health ministry said on Monday (local time) that 40 people had died in the fires, raising the toll from 34.
The worst hit region has been Nizhny Novgorod with 19 deaths, but raging fires have also claimed lives in the Voronezh, Lipetsk, Moscow and Ryazan regions.
Russia Declares Fire Emergencies
President Dmitri A. Medvedev on Monday declared a state of emergency in seven regions as forest and peat bog fires raged across Russia, killing dozens and leaving thousands homeless in a heat wave that has badly hurt Moscow and many other parts of the country.
Moscow was engulfed in smog Monday, with some of the worst fires in the surrounding area and the nearby regions of Ryazan, Vladimir and Nizhny Novgorod.
Fires were being fought in 14 regions, stretching to the Urals Mountains and beyond, including Kamchatka in the far east. The temperature in Moscow reached nearly 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) last week and could climb to that level later this week, experts said, as Russians suffer through a second month of record-breaking heat.
In Moscow, shorts have become the clothing of choice. Street vendors hawk water and soft drinks at stands with half-empty refrigerators. Electric fans are practically impossible to find in stores, and air conditioners have jumped in price.
Mr. Medvedevs emergency declaration restricts movement and activity in the affected areas and calls for the military to help fight the fires. According to the declaration, the regional authorities are granted the right to determine the length of the state of emergency.
As of Monday evening, 40 people had died in the fires, the Ministry of Health and Social Development reported. Nearly 2,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 2,200 people left homeless, the official RIA Novosti news agency said.
Sergei K. Shoigu, the emergency situations minister, said that 620 fires had been extinguished but that 580 were still burning.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin flew to Nizhny Novgorod, one of the most seriously affected areas.
Russians are bracing for more bad news, since August is often a month of disasters a hydroelectric plant in Siberia last year, the war in Georgia two years ago, the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000, terrorist attacks and, of course, the aborted coup attempt against the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1991.
In a video blog posted on the official Kremlin Web site, Mr. Medvedev spoke with urgency of the scope of the fires and promised new homes for all of the victims before the weather turns to the cold that Russia is far better known for. While promising government action, he also called on citizens to step up their support for those suffering the most from the heat.
The authorities will fulfill their responsibilities, he said. But all of us, all citizens of this country, must do their part to help in this common tragedy. People are already joining forces to help those who have been left with nothing overnight.
Bloggers and local Web sites have turned to citizen journalism to cover the crisis, complaining that the fires interest the federal government only so much as they affect Moscow.
Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev, as well as local officials, have been attacked by bloggers and Internet media sites, which are reporting that fire departments are grossly under-equipped.
Yet Mr. Putin and the Kremlin have been able to turn such attacks to their advantage. Last week, as the fires spun out of control, Mr. Putin said that local officials who had failed to take the necessary fire prevention measures should resign.
The administrative head of Nizhny Novgorods Vyksa district, which was ravaged by the fires, quit Saturday. And on Monday, Mr. Putin said that Russias regional governors, who are appointed by the Kremlin, would also be held accountable.