Tens of thousands of firefighters battle raging fire in Russia

Last Updated: Saturday, July 31, 2010 - 22:15

Moscow: Tens of thousands of firefighters,
including soldiers, today battled forest fires raging across
Central Russia that is posing threat to over 200 villages and
towns, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin describing the
situation as `grim`.

"Wildfires are threatening more than 200 villages in
the Russian regions of Voronezh, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, as
well as in the republic of Mordovia (Volga region)", chief of
National Centre for Crisis Situations Gen Vladimir Stepanov
today told a meeting chaired by Putin.

The hastily arranged meeting was called to take the
stock of the situation as already 77 villages and towns have
been fully or partially turned into heaps of ashes, leaving 30
people dead.

"The situation we have with wildfires remains
difficult, Thursday night and Friday morning we had to counter
some grave consequences in some regions, the situation has
stabilised a bit. However, on the whole, it remains grim,"
Putin said at the meeting televised live by state-run Rossiya
24 channel.

According to the Emergencies Ministry`s (EMERCOM)
figures this morning, forests over an area of 121,500 hectares
are ablaze even as army has been called in to assist over
240,000 fire-fighters and volunteers.

"Over the last 24 hours, 1,257 homes have been
destroyed in the largest wildfire ever to hit the European
part of Russia," Putin said.

Since July 29, in the Nizhny Novgorod region alone 575
homes were burned and 1,500 people were evacuated. Emergency
situation has been announced in 14 regions in Russia.

"All together in the Volga Federal District, 625 homes
have burned, in Voronezh - more than 200 homes have burned and
more than 1,000 people have been evacuated,"Gen Stepanov said.
Putin, who yesterday released huge compensation funds,
ordered the governors of affected areas to build homes for
`each and every` family by October.

Due to dry and windy weather more than 22,000 fire
islands have been registered in the Central Russia.

According to EMERCOM, 240,000 people are battling the
wildfires and that 25,000 pieces of equipment are being used
throughout the regions, including 64 special fire-fighting
aircraft, almost whole air fleet of the Emergencies Ministry.

However, the governors of Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan in
their video conference with Putin said the fire-fighting air
fleet remains grounded due to low visibility caused by dense
smoke and smog from the forest fires.

The military, which is facing an uphill task of
protecting its own arsenals and ammunition dumps from the
wildfires, have joined the rescue efforts.

"We have put in everything we have, including all of
our fire brigades," Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told
President Dmitry Medvedev.

The Emergencies Ministry is sending 100 paratroopers
from Siberia, who are trained in fire-fighting, to the Nizhny
Novgorod region, RIA Novosti reported.

In his televised remarks, the Defence Minister said
that in Moscow region alone there were several battalions
involved ensuring water supplies to firefighters and in other
regions more than 300 pieces of equipment had been sent to put
out the fires.

In their e-mail posted on the Roskosmos Federal Space
Agency, the Russian crew from International Space Station has
disappointed millions of people by saying "there was not a
speck of cloud" over the vast territory, which could bring
reliving rains.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, July 31, 2010 - 22:15

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