GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

09 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes:

9 August, Moscow Region, 500m resolution. Source: MODIS.
Thick smoke covering Moscow.

9 August, Southern Russia Region, 500m resolution. Source: MODIS.
Smoke drifting also south direction Ukaraine.

Data collected by „Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere “(MOPITT) sensor, flying on NASA’s Terra satellite,
shows carbon monoxide concentrations over western Russia between 1 and 8 August 2010,
largely a consequence of the ongoing wildfires. Source: NASA.

Overview map showing large fire locations detected over the last 10 days:

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Latest maps maps showing fire activities of  08 August 2010 (selection):

According to the latest satellite-derived analysis provided by the Sukachev Institute for Forest (Krasnoyarsk) the total area burned per Region by 09 August:

  • Moscow Region: 72 995 ha

  • Vladimir Region: 70 121 ha

  • Nizhni Novgorod Region: 235 815 ha

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Moscow Region

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Vladimir Region

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Nizhni Novgorod Region

More maps of other regions are available on request:

GFMC analysis: According to the latest satellite-derived analysis provided by the Sukachev Institute for Forest (Krasnoyarsk) the total area burned by 09 August in the Russian Federation is:

14 837 804  hectares (ha).

Note: The area burned includes all vegetation types (forest and non-forested land on the whole territory of the Russian Federation). For current fire statistics on forest lands of the Federal Russian Forest Fund compiled by Avialesookhrana see report below.

Fire danger map for August for Eastern Siberia:

Source: Sukachev Institute for Forest, Krasnoyarsk

Avialesookhrana from the National Forest Fire Centre of Russia provides up-to-date NOAA images for the whole of the Russian Federation and neighbour territories. The Space Monitoring Information Support Laboratory provides extensive links to sites with satellite imagery for the Russian Federation, meteorological information as well as fire related images are accessible.

The NOAA AVHRR satellite image composite shows fire activities in the Russian Federation.

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Latest (09 August 2010 09:00 GMT) NOAA 12&14 AVHRR composite
The red squares indicate regions of active fires (MODIS Detection). For details the GFMC readers are encouraged to use the hyperlinks provided by Avialesookhrana, the Aerial Forest Fire Protection Service of the Federal Forest service of Russia.
(Source: Avialesookhrana cloudiness maps)

Wildfire  situation report of  the Aerial Forest Fire Center of Russia (Avialesookhrana)

7 August, 2010
According  to  the wildfire situation report of 7 August 2010 a total of
560  fires affected 21,933 ha forested and  953 ha non-forested lands.
96 fires of them were reported as new fires.

Through all of Russia 17,796 people, 43 aircraft, 3,078 bulldozers, tractors and engines have
been involved in fire fighting.

Since  the  beginning  of  the 2010 fire season a total of 25,513 fires
affected 706,775 ha forested and 221,389 ha non-forested lands of the Forest Fund of Russia.

Most fires have been reported in the following regions:
Sverdlovsk region – 52
Kirovsk region – 50
Moscow region – 21
Komi republic – 108
Vladimir region – 35
Nizhniy Novgorod region – 40
Arkhangelsk region – 37

There are large fires in following regions:
Ivanovo region – 5 fires,burning area 16,717 ha forested landsand and 1,415 ha non-forested lands.
Vladivir region – 34 fires,burning area 20,994 ha forested lands.
Ryazan region – 13 fires,burning area 63,570 ha forested lands and 6,620 ha non-forested lands.

Source: Aerial Forest Fire Center of Russia (Avialesookhrana)
Prepared for GFMC by Andrey Eritsov and Andrey Usachev

Eurasian Experimental Fire Weather Information System
The system has been developed by forest fire researchers from Canada, Russia and Germany is displayed on this website starting 18 July 2001. Complete information and a set of daily fire weather and fire behaviour potential maps covering Eurasia (the Baltic Region, Eastern Europe, countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Mongolia) can be accessed at:

Example of the Eurasian Experimental Fire Weather Information System:
Latest map of the Experimental Fire Weather Index (FWI) for Russia and neighbouring countries

Daily Fire Occurrence and Fire Danger Maps of the Fire Laboratory of the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Krasnoyarsk
Selected fire occurrence maps, satellite images and a forest fire danger map are prepared daily by the Russian GFMC correspondent Dr. Anatoly Sukhinin, Fire Laboratory of the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Krasnoyarsk, in collaboration with the Emergency Situation Monitoring and Forecasting Agency, Krasnoyarsk branch. The maps are produced on the base of satellite data (classification by the NOAA AVHRR). They show the fire locations (by latitude and longitude) and the area affected by fire (red signature, size in ha). The red arrow at each fire location points to the nearest populated place. The terms Oblast or Kray used in the maps are designations of administrative regions. A map showing the boundaries of administrative regions and a legend is included below.

ru_fire_legend.gif (937 Byte)

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Map legend

Administrative boundaries

News from the media:

Situation according to the information received at 06:00 Moscow time 09 August 2010
Source: Government of the Russian Federation

247 islands of fires appeared during the day. 239 islands of fire were put out. 557 islands of fire continue to be active on the total area of 174 035.02 ha (there were 554 islands of fire yesterday on the area of 190 474.26 ha). 354 of them were localized on the total area of 82 178.16 ha. There are 76 big islands of fire on the area of 159 826.4 ha, including 25 islands of peat fires.

In total 25 893 islands of natural fires appeared on the territory of the Russian Federation since the beginning of the fire hazardous period 2010 on the total area of 747 722.3 ha, including 1014 peat fires on the total area of 364.77 ha.

161 886 people and 26 382 items of equipment (42 aircrafts), including 129 171 people and 19 341 items of equipment (25 aircrafts) EMERCOM of Russia were engaged in the fire extinguishing operation.

394 people and 52 items of equipment, including 10 aircrafts (5 planes and 5 helicopters) were engaged in the fire extinguishing operation from the foreign states.

Russian fires prompt Kremlin to abruptly embrace climate change
Russia’s ongoing heat wave, along with its disastrous fallout, may have finally persuaded the Kremlin to combat climate change.

Russian officials, who have until now resisted dramatic action out of fears it would dampen economic growth, have lately issued strong statements linking global warming to the emergency Russia is currently facing. Some hope the abrupt change of tune will result in more effective environmental policies, even after the smog dies down.

“There is no question that we need to get ahead of climate change,” says Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of Ecodefense, a grass-roots Russian environmental group. “This is a wake-up call.”

Moscow-region fires triple in size

The crisis, which seems to have taken the Kremlin by surprise, features a fierce and unremitting heat wave that’s now well into its second month, a drought that has ruined up to a third of the vitally important grain crop, and a wave of seemingly irrepressible wildfires that have blanketed half of European Russia – including the capital, Moscow – in a cloud of smoke.

Russia’s state meteorological service said smog conditions in Moscow have eased from a Saturday peak, but the Ministry of Emergency Services warned that Moscow-region fires have tripled size in the past week, spreading from 65 to 210 hectares. Meanwhile, an average of 700 people are dying per day in Moscow – a doubling of the average rate, which health officials blamed on the smog.

“Our country has not experienced such a heat wave in the last 50 or even 100 years,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last week in a speech published in English on the Kremlin’s website. “We need to learn our lessons from what has happened, and from the unprecedented heat wave that we have faced this summer.

“Everyone is talking about climate change now,” he continued. “Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past. This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.”

Those are arguably the strongest words a Kremlin leader has ever delivered to a domestic audience on the subject of climate change.

Medvedev’s change in view

Moscow has taken a strong rhetorical stand at international meetings since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin threw Russia’s support behind the Kyoto climate- change treaty six years ago when he was president.

But at home last year, President Medvedev said Russia would probably be generating 30 percent more CO2 by 2020, in line with the country’s rapid industrial “modernization” program, and added that “we will not let anyone cut our development potential.”

Kremlin leaders have also suggested that climate change might all turn out to Russia’s benefit, for example in the race for natural resources previously trapped beneath the melting Arctic icecap, or by opening up a new northeast navigation channel from Asia to Europe across the top of Siberia.

“This same president [Medvedev] recently told an audience in Siberia that Russia didn’t need to restrict its carbon emissions, that it hampered our development and was a scheme that favored Western countries,” says Mr. Slivyak, who notes that the Kremlin’s official Climate Doctrine, prepared for the Russian delegation to last December’s Copenhagen conference on climate change, had no practical guide to action.

“Until this crisis, the official view of climate change was ambivalent,” he says. “Now we hear many officials talking about it as the cause of what’s happening, and that’s progress. But I fear that once the emergency has passed, they will forget all about it.”

US disaster team sent to Moscow
The United States said Monday a US disaster team has arrived in Moscow to help Russia deal with massive forest fires causing havoc in much of the country.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said an Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance team “has had their first meetings with Russian fire experts” about how best to help.

The meetings follow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s phone call on Friday with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, “where we offered our assistance to … Russia in dealing with these horrible fires.”

Crowley also said the State Department is also studying an embassy request to authorize the departure from Moscow of children and other family members of embassy staff who are suffering from the fire-induced smog in the capital.

“So that’s something that we will be evaluating and perhaps make a decision before … too long,” Crowley said.

Russian officials said the daily mortality rate in Moscow has doubled and morgues are overflowing amid an acrid smog caused by the worst heatwave in Russia’s thousand-year history.

The acknowledgement, which broke days of official silence on the toll, came after media reports accused authorities of covering up the scale of the disaster that has forced many Muscovities to flee the Russian capital.

The smog from the peat and forest fires burning in the countryside around 100 kilometres (60 miles) outside the city has choked Moscow for days and has been seeping into apartments, offices and even underground into the metro.

Emergency services battled to put out over 170,000 hectares of wildfires in central Russia and the Moscow region, as fires also raged close to a nuclear reprocessing site.

Death rate doubles in Moscow as heatwave continues
Moscow’s health chief has confirmed the mortality rate has doubled as a heatwave and wildfire smog continue to grip the Russian capital.

There were twice the usual number of bodies in the city’s morgues, Andrei Seltsovsky told reporters.

Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been declared around a nuclear reprocessing plant in the southern Urals because of nearby wildfires.

And there was a new warning over shortfalls in Russia’s grain harvest.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said this year’s harvest, hit by fire and drought, would be worse than previously forecast.

Currently expected to be 65m tonnes, it could be as low as 60 million tonnes, Mr Putin said.

Mr Putin also said that a ban on grain exports could be extended beyond the end of 2010 because of shortages for domestic markets.

Russia is the world’s third largest wheat exporter. Its biggest customers include Egypt, Turkey and Syria.

As of Monday morning, 557 wildfires continued to burn in Russia, 25 of them peat fires, the emergencies ministry said.

While 239 fires were extinguished on Sunday, 247 new ones were discovered.

The head of the state weather service, Alexander Frolov, said on Monday that the heatwave of 2010 was the worst in 1,000 years of recorded Russian history.

“It’s an absolutely unique phenomenon – nothing like it can be seen in the archives,” he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

How peat bog fires spread

  1. Peat is formed from decayed vegetation in bogs, moors or swamps.

  2. Deliberate drainage or drought can expose peat to air.

  3. Peat can then be ignited by wildfires or spontaneously combust. The air flow allows the peat to continue burning.

  4. Once alight, the smouldering fire spreads slowly through the peat and can cause the ground above to collapse.

‘Puzzling’ death data

Recent death rates for parts of central Russia other than Moscow, which are seeing similar droughts and wildfires for more than a month, have not been released.

On normal days, between 360 and 380 die – now it’s around 700”

End Quote Andrei Seltsovsky Head of Moscow city health department

Soon after Mr Seltsovsky gave his information, Russia’s Health Minister, Tatyana Golikova, demanded a formal clarification of his data.

Her ministry said it was “puzzled by the unofficial figures quoted at the briefing”.

Mr Seltsovsky did not give a time frame but earlier reports had spoken of the death rate in Moscow for July rising by up to 50% compared with the same period last year.

“On normal days, between 360 and 380 die – now it’s around 700,” Mr Seltsovsky told reporters.

Moscow, he said, had 1,500 places in its morgues and 1,300 of these were currently occupied.

While stressing there was still capacity, he added that about 30% of bereaved people were asking to have the body kept in a morgue for more than three days, “which slightly complicates the situation”.

The concentration of carbon monoxide in Moscow was still more than double acceptable safety norms on Monday as smog from peat and forest wildfires continued to blanket the city.

Temperatures of more than 35C (95F) are forecast for the city until Thursday.

Since the second half of July, at least 52 deaths in Russia as a whole have been attributed directly to fires, which have destroyed hundreds of rural homes.

Mr Seltsovsky did not attribute the rise in the mortality rate to the heatwave or smog but doctors, speaking off the record, have talked of morgues filling with victims of heat stroke and smoke ailments.

Nuclear plant alert

A nuclear plant in the Urals being threatened by the wildfires was the site of Russia’s worst nuclear disaster in 1957.

Some of the land around the Mayak plant in the town of Ozersk (known in Soviet times as Chelyabinsk-40) is believed to be still contaminated from the disaster, in which a tank of radioactive waste exploded.

Several leaks of radioactive waste have been reported from the plant in recent years.

Ozersk’s administration announced on the town’s website that residents were forbidden from entering the region’s abundant, picturesque woodlands until further notice, and ordered urgent, unspecified fire safety measures.

According to Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency, Moscow airports were working normally on Monday after last week’s disruptions due to smog.

Sunday saw more than 104,000 air travellers leaving the capital – a record number, according to Russian news agencies.

Those who remain in the city of 10.5m people were being urged to wear face masks if they ventured outdoors, and to hang wet towels indoors to attract dust and cool the airflow.

Most apartments in the city lack air conditioning and there are media reports of wealthier citizens moving out of their homes into hotels, shopping malls, offices and private cars.

MOE Russia promises to extinguish fires in the Moscow region within 5-7 days
Minister of Emergency Situations of Russia Sergei Shoigu predicts that the fires in the Moscow region will be extinguished within five to seven days. He said, speaking at a teleconference meeting on combating forest fires, according to the correspondent UKRINFORM in Russia.

“We are within five to seven days to cope with the peat fires, if you will continue to operate at such a pace,” – he said.

According to the minister, in the Moscow region will be deployed additional forces from other regions, and even today in the capital region will begin large-scale operation to extinguish the fires.

Before putting out fires in the Moscow region was conducted around the clock. As a result, for the first two weeks in the Moscow region could stabilize the situation with forests and peat fires. Last night the number of fires has exceeded the number of newly emerged.

For weather forecasts, smog from forest and peat fires in Moscow region, covering the capital, leaving Moscow not until next Tuesday. At the same time environmentalists point out that on 8 August the concentration of harmful substances in the air compared to the previous day decreased, but there are still higher than normal almost 3 times.

EMERCOM: 557 wildfires are active in Russia
August 9, 2010.
During twenty-four hours 247 wildfires have been discovered and 239 were suppressed.
557 wildfires are still active on area 174 035 hectares in comparison with previous 24 hours having 554 wildfires on area 190 474 hectares. 354 wildfires are contained on area 82178 hectares. 76 large wildfires are active on area 159 826 ha including 25 peat fires.
From the beginning of 2010 fire season 25893 wildfires started on total area 747 722 ha in Russian Federation including 1014 peat fires on area 364 ha.
161886 persons, 26 382 machineries including 42 aircrafts were involved in wildfires suppression. 129 171 persons, 19341 machineries, including 25 aircrafts were involved from EMERCOM of Russia in forest fire fighting.
394 persons and 52 machineries including 5 aircrafts and 5 helicopters have been involved from foreign countries to suppress forest fires.

МЧС: В России продолжают действовать 557 очагов природных пожаров
МЧС России сообщает о том, что в течение суток возникло 247 очагов природных пожаров. Потушено 239 очагов. Продолжают действовать 557 очагов на общей площади 174 035,02 га (за предыдущие сутки – 554 очага на площади 190 474,26 га). Из них локализовано 354 очага на общей площади 82 178,16 га. Действует 76 крупных очагов пожаров на площади 159 826,4 га, в том числе продолжает действовать 25 очагов торфяных пожаров.
Всего с начала пожароопасного периода 2010 г., по данным МЧС России, на территории Российской Федерации возникло 25 893 очага природных пожаров на общей площади 747 722,3 га, в том числе 1014 очагов торфяных пожаров на общей площади 364,77 га.
Для тушения лесных пожаров привлекалось 161 886 человек и 26 382 единицы техники, из них 42 воздушных судна, в том числе от МЧС России – 129 171 человек и 19 341 единица техники, из них 25 воздушных судов.
Для оказания помощи в тушении природных пожаров от иностранных государств, привлечено 394 человека и 52 единицы техники, в том числе 10 воздушных судов (5 самолетов, 5 вертолетов).

Turkey to send fire fighting helicopters to Russia
Erdogan has earlier talked with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over phone about the forest fire in Russia that killed scores.
Turkey is set to send two fire fighting helicopters on Monday to fire-hit Russia in a bid to help the country to fight against a huge forest blaze, said a statement from Turkish Ministry of Environment & Forestry.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has earlier talked with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over phone about the forest fire in Russia that killed scores.
The two choppers will leave from western province of Izmir and southern province of Antalya for the Lipetsk region. The crew of the helicopters include one Turkish pilot and five Russians and five Ukrainians. Source:

Farewell of the Turkish Kamarov-32 helicopters leaving for Russia deployment.
Source: Website of the General Directorate of Forestry, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Republic of Turkey:

Anger Rages Amid Russian Fires
As forest fires continued to rage near Moscow, the mayor of this front-line town trudged through a blackened peat bog Sunday to oversee volunteer firefighters. “The blaze is under control,” Mayor Sergei Stolyarov declared.
But the townspeople’s anger is not.
Here, as in other regions overcome by wildfires and choking smog, Russian officials at all levels are facing an outcry over their handling of a mounting environmental disaster. They say the government was ill prepared and equipped to fight the fires, responded too late and is poorly organized to mobilize volunteers who want to help.
President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov have all come under withering criticism. Mr. Luzhkov, whose spokesman had denied Friday that the city was in crisis, returned from a midsummer break, other aides said.
In Lukhovitsy, a logging and industrial town 84 miles southeast of Moscow, people say they fought the flames spreading from the peat bog for days with no outside assistance.
“We survived only because the wind shifted,” said Olga Kubysheva, who lives amid the pines on the edge of town and fears the authorities can’t protect her if the fast-spreading flames return. “The fire is still in our forest, and the forest is our yard. We are frightened.”
Russia’s emergencies ministry reported more than 800 fires across the country Sunday, many of them out of control. The fires have killed 52 people since late July, left more than 4,000 others homeless and burned 1.8 million acres of land, the government said.
Those numbers aren’t extraordinary by Russian standards. But prolonged, record-breaking heat in western Russia has sparked an unusual number of fires near cities, including 49 that were reported Sunday in the Moscow region, overwhelming millions of people with a thick gray haze.
Smog blanketing the capital Friday and Saturday sent the concentration of airborne pollutants to a level 6.6 times higher than the acceptable norm, according to Moscow’s air pollution monitoring service. That figure dropped to 3.1 Sunday, but low visibility at Moscow airports caused delays or diversions of dozens of flights.
Red-eyed and irritated, 70 Moscow volunteers showed up Sunday to help out in Lukhovitsy, whose burning forests and peat bogs have fed the capital’s smog.
“It’s our country, and we can smell that our country is burning,” said Andrei Kolesnik, a 28-year-old economics instructor at a Moscow university who joined the group.
Russian officials have acknowledged that the 10,000 professional firefighters battling the blazes aren’t enough. But Mr. Kolesnik and others in the group complained that the government has no organized system for mobilizing volunteers. He said he spent two days calling the emergency ministry and other government agencies before someone referred him to Nashi, a youth group of the ruling United Russia party, which put together Sunday’s trip.
Nor is the state equipped to fight fires, according to other volunteers who have been to the forests in recent days. They said that access roads to the forests are often blocked or in poor repair, that reservoirs for refilling their tanks are dangerously low, and that fire hoses often leak.
Critics of the government also fault a revised forest code, which Mr. Putin pushed through parliament four years ago, for crippling the firefighting effort. This disbanded a centralized system of 70,000 forest wardens, who used to patrol the woods and spot fire hazards. Firefighting responsibility passed to regional governments and logging firms that lease the forests.
Ms. Kubysheva, the resident, said the number of wardens in the extensive forests around Lukhovitsy had since dwindled from several dozens to just four people. “The forest has no owner,” she said, standing in front of her home at 1 Forest Road. “We are practically unprotected.”
In a blog post that drew nationwide attention, a villager from the Tver region complained to Mr. Putin about the state’s firefighting inadequacies. In Soviet times, he wrote, “there were three fire ponds in the village, a bell that tolled when a fire began, and—guess what?—a fire truck.”
Mr. Putin wrote a public reply saying he agreed “in general” with the blogger’s criticism but noted that Soviet leaders never faced such a prolonged heat wave. He promised the village a bell.
But he and Mr. Medvedev have also tried to deflect criticism to local authorities. Mr. Medvedev said Friday he would hold mayors accountable for negligence.
In an interview at the peat bog, Mayor Stolyarov defended his town’s firefighting effort, which relies on local volunteers with shovels. “We would like to have had more equipment, but we managed,” he said.
He put the Moscow volunteers to work digging ditches across the bog, shrouded in a smoky haze far thicker than the one they left in Moscow. Water poured into the ditches from a pipe normally used to convey a mixture of sand and water to a nearby factory. The idea was to keep the bog from drying up, bursting into flames again and spreading through the forest.
A longtime resident, Tatyana Vladimirova, approached two reporters at the bog and started to give her account of the fires.
“The older people here say that we angered God,” she said.
Perhaps sensitive to criticism of his own effort, the mayor walked over, broke up the interview and told the woman to go away.

Accusations Of Denial As Fires And Smoke Kill In Russia 

Accusations Of Denial As Fires And Smoke Kill In Russia Photo: Mikhail Voskresensky
Residents set grass on fire to create a firebreak, a barrier which slows down
or stops new wildfire outbursts, outside the village of Korovino,
some 90 km (56 miles) southeast of Moscow, August 8, 2010.
Photo: Mikhail Voskresensky

Moscow doctors said they were wary of diagnosing patients with heat and smoke-related illnesses out of fear they will lose their jobs, hinting at Russia’s long record of covering up the impact of disasters.
Many Russians have criticized the government’s slow response to the peat and forest fires that have engulfed swathes of Russia and left a harmful smoke cloud that has choked the capital for several days.
The opposition accused authorities of being in denial.
Powerful Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, notably silent during the crisis since he left for holiday on August 2, was returning on Sunday because of “the developing situation in the city due to fires,” news agencies quoted his spokesman as saying.
Fires caused by the hottest weather since records began 130 years ago have left thousands homeless and prompted officials to warn against venturing outdoors in Moscow, where flights were diverted and residents wore surgical masks.
The Emergencies Ministry said on Sunday the area forest and peat fires in the Moscow region had tripled since Friday; currently at 210 hectares (519 acres), up from 65.7.
France, responding to Moscow’s plea for aid, offered 120 men, 37 vehicles, 15 motorpumps and a bombardier DASH water plane, the French presidency said in a statement on Sunday.
An unnamed doctor at a Moscow clinic wrote on his site that the bodies of those who had died from heatstroke and smoke ailments over the last few days were piling up in the basement, as the “fridges are full,” leaving a “rotting stench.” He added the situation was similar at hospitals across Moscow.
“(But) we can’t give that diagnosis — we don’t want to be sacked. We have families to feed,” he said on his site here; comments that were were carried by several Russian media outlets on Sunday.
He added that if a state of emergency were declared in Moscow as in other regions, doctors have to be paid double.
Another doctor at a major hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that staff had been instructed by senior management to not link patients’ illnesses with the heatwave.
A spokeswoman for the Moscow city government declined to comment on the doctors’ claims.


Pro-Western opposition party Yabloko on Sunday accused the governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, some 350 km (220 miles) east of Moscow, of deliberately denying residents access to information on the fires raging in his region by not reinstating site, which was shut on August 5 in a cyber attack.
The site had served as a lifeline for residents by giving detailed information on how to get help, Yabloko said in a statement, adding that its closure “killed people.”
Last week the Ministry of Defense denied two military installations were damaged by fire, but the reports were later revealed to be true.
Critics say Moscow has a history cover ups when disaster strikes, from its delay in responding to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster to the conflicting reports surrounding the 2000 sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine.
Though the government maintains the official death toll from fires is 52, an “informed source” told Interfax news agency on Friday that the death rates in Moscow surged nearly 30 percent in July because of the heat and foul smoke cloud.
One of the world’s top grains producers, Russia has announced a temporary ban on exports after crops were ravaged by the dry weather. The news sent world wheat prices soaring.
Moscow temperatures hit 34.7 degrees Celsius (94.5 F) on Sunday, breaking a record for the sixth time in August. Trains and flights out are booked solid as residents flee and the United States and Italy have warned against travel to Russia.
Moscow went into a near shut-down on Sunday; streets and cafes emptied, schools and gyms canceled their classes and state television Rossiya 24 said organized tours were scrapped.
It showed groups of Japanese tourists wandering near Red Square. Dozens of flights at Moscow’s busy airports were delayed on Sunday morning due to low visibility, it said.
Fires near the Sarov nuclear arms facility where troops dug a 8-km (5-mile) long canal were finally put out, agencies said. Source:

Residents Form A Barrier For New Wildfire Outbursts Southeast Of Moscow

Residents Form A Barrier For New Wildfire Outbursts Southeast Of Moscow

Residents set grass on fire to form a barrier for new wildfire outbursts, outside the village of Korovino, some 90 km (56 miles) southeast of Moscow, August 8, 2010.
Moscow doctors said they were wary of diagnosing patients with heat and smoke-related illnesses out of fear they will lose their jobs, hinting at Russia’s long record of covering up the impact of disasters. Source:

Fire health threat at new high in Moscow

MOSCOW – A suffocating smog from bushfires hung over the Russian capital, raising the concentration of dangerous pollutants to a new high as exasperated residents donned masks and dozens of flights were delayed or diverted at the city’s airports.

The thick haze engulfed Moscow for a second straight weekend as southeastern winds blew smoke from the areas worst affected by peat bog and forest fires. Weather experts said the winds are unlikely to change over the next few days.

The concentration of airborne pollutants such as carbon monoxide has further intensified and is at more than six times normal levels, according to city health officials – the worst seen to date in Moscow. The smog has seeped into buildings and the city’s subway system.

One woman said all she wanted to do was breathe normally “but my job doesn’t allow me to leave.

Visibility was down to a few hundred metres, and dozens of flights bound for Moscow’s Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports were diverted to other airports or delayed. Nearly 600 separate blazes were burning nationwide yesterday, mainly across western Russia, according to the Emergencies Ministry, which said that the area affected had increased over the past 24 hours.

Hundreds of forest and peat bog fires have ignited amid the country’s most intense heat wave in 130 years of record-keeping.

Russian health officials have urged those who have to go outdoors to wear face masks and told people staying inside to hang wet towels to attract dust and cool the airflow. The Russian Health Ministry said hundreds have needed medical attention due to the smog.

Yelena Lezina, an expert with Moscow Ecological Monitoring Service, said the level of air pollution yesterday was the highest the city had seen. She advised residents to stay indoors.

Gennady Onishchenko, the nation’s chief sanitary official, sought to reassure foreign tourists spooked by the Russian smog.

“An overwhelming part of Russian territory does not pose any danger and is not engulfed in smoke,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

But he added that foreigners who are in Moscow on business trips should heed doctors’ advice and stay indoors.

“If a businessman visiting Moscow stays in a hotel, or an office, or a car, it is safe,” Onishchenko said.

“As for tourists, some adjustments could be made. For instance, visit first St Petersburg, where everything is fine, and then Moscow, when the situation improves.”

At least 52 people have died and 2000 homes have been destroyed in the blazes. Russian officials have acknowledged that the 10,000 firefighters battling the blazes aren’t enough – an assessment echoed by many residents, who said the fires swept through their hamlets in minutes.

President Dmitry Medvedev donated 350,000 rubles ($16,000) of his own money to help the victims of the fires, and other top federal officials were expected to follow suit.

Several countries sent firefighting aircraft to help battle the blazes.

Russian television on Saturday showed two Italian firefighting amphibious planes arriving in the Samara region on the Volga River to help save a natural reserve engulfed by fires. Source:

For more details on fire in the Russian Federation:

Bibliography on fire in ecosystems of boreal Eurasia:
One of the results of the first international fire science conference in the Russian Federation (1993) was the publication of a monograph on fire in boreal Eurasia, including some selected contributions on boreal North America. The literature cited in the monograph contains numerous publications which in many cases are not easily accessible. To facilitate literature search the bibliographical sources are provided by topic (chapter).
Goldammer, J.G. and V.V.Furyaev. 1996. Fire in Ecosystems of Boreal Eurasia. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 390 p.

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