Wildfires sweep through Siberia

Wildfires sweep through Siberia

14 April 2015

published by www.theguardian.com

Russia — Twenty-six people have died and almost a thousand have sought medical treatment after wildfires swept through Siberia.

More than 5,000 rescue workers battled through the night to contain the blazes in the region of Khakassia in south-eastern Siberia, where 23 people died. Fires also raged in eastern Siberia, claiming three lives, authorities said.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, personally coordinated the work of the emergency services, his spokesman said.

The authorities blamed the fire on human carelessness, with people setting dry grass ablaze amid warm temperatures and high winds.

“This fire would not have happened if no one played with matches,” said the deputy emergencies minister, Alexander Chupriyan, referring to the fires that raged through Kakhassia on Sunday. He added: “It was adults and not children who did this.”

State TV said the fires were so intense they could be seen from space, while broadcasting satellite imagery of hotspots and reporting that the flames reached about 3m high.

A senior medical official, Natalya Kogan, told reporters that more than 900 people sought medical help in Khakassia.

Irina Emelianova, a spokeswoman for the regional authorities, said 77 were seriously injured.

Of those taken to hospital, eight were in a critical condition, she added.

Emelianova told AFP: “The temperature on Sunday was 25C (77F) and there were also storm winds. This combination caused the fires. We have never had this before.” She said more than 30 villages had been affected.

The authorities said the region sustained “huge damage” as a result of the blazes. At least 700 cattle and about 3,000 sheep perished, officials said.

They expressed concern that surviving cattle had been left without grazing land, adding: “Tens of square kilometres of land have been burned.”

Investigators in Moscow have opened five criminal inquiries into the Khakassia fires over negligence.

Rescue workers also raced to put out wildfires in the region of Chita in eastern Siberia on Monday.

Konstantin Ilkovsky, the regional governor, said in televised remarks that two people had died. He called on locals not to burn grass and urged the residents of several settlements to evacuate. He was quoted as saying: “The situation is very serious.” The authorities said they were trying to contain fires near local ammunition depots, but insisted there was no danger of any explosions.

Russian farmers routinely set fire to dry grass to clean fields after the winter, sometimes accidentally sparking blazes that result in loss of life and damage to homes.

In 2010, during Russia’s worst heatwave in decades, smoke from wildfires and burning peat bogs in central Russia choked Moscow for several days. Officials said the death rate in Moscow soared by 50% at the time.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien