Wildfires kill at least 23 in central Russia; Army called in

Raging forest fires engulfed parts of central Russia killing at least 23 people and destroying hundreds of homes, forcing President Dmitry Medvedev to summon the Army to join the rescue effort.

Last Updated: Jul 30, 2010, 20:56 PM IST

Moscow: Raging forest fires engulfed
parts of central Russia killing at least 23 people and
destroying hundreds of homes, forcing President Dmitry
Medvedev to summon the Army to join the rescue effort.

At least 23 people were killed and scores were injured
in the advancing wildfires in Nizhny Novgorod, Voronezh,
Moscow and Ryazan regions, where over a thousand homes were
gutted leaving hundreds of families homeless, agencies
reported quoting Emergency authorities.

President Medvedev ordered the army to move into the
affected parts of Central Russia with its heavy equipment, to
assist over 240,000 rescuers battling the forest fires.

The blaze tore through villages, forcing mass
evacuations, even as Moscow suffered a record heat wave and
smog cloud caused by peat-bog fires.

Russian channels showed a telephonic conversation
between Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, with the
latter urging the Supreme Commander from the worst-hit Nizhny
Novgorod, to issue orders to the military to join the
fire-fighting operations.

ITAR-TASS reported that after their telephonic
conversation, Medvedev issued orders to the military.

According to Interfax, at least 23 people were killed
in forest fires, while scores, including over 50 injured in
Voronezh, are under treatment in hospitals.

Due to strong winds, the wildfires have stepped into
the city limits of Voronezh, major agro-industrial centre 450
km from here.

By this morning, more than 270 houses were destroyed
in Voronezh and over 550 in the Nizhny Novgorod region, RIA
Novosti reported quoting Emergency Situations Ministry.

Prime Minister Putin, who rushed to Nizhny Novgorod to
assess the situation, visited the worst-hit village of Vyksa,
where all the 340 homes were gutted.

Talking to agitated residents, he promised to rebuild
the new village from scratch before the winter sets in and
announced 200,000 roubles (a little over Rs 3 lakh)
compensation per head.

He also ordered the local municipal heads to submit
their resignations for their failure to take preventive
measures in the abnormal heat and the worst drought being
faced by the country since 1972.

The Emergency Situations Ministry has summoned
additional fire-fighting units from remote parts of the
country, where the weather is favourable.

PTI