1 Aug 2019

Russian army ordered to tackle massive wildfires

11:18 am on 1 August 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the army to help tackle massive wildfires raging in Siberia and other regions in the east.

A forest fire in the republic of Buryatia in eastern Siberia.

A forest fire burns in the Russian republic of Buryatia, eastern Siberia. Photo: AFP / Valeriy Melnikov / Sputnik

The decision was taken after Mr Putin was briefed on the growing crisis by the head of the emergencies ministry.

About three million hectares have been affected, in what Greenpeace is describing as an "ecological catastrophe".

Many local residents say not enough is being done to tackle the fires. More than 700,000 people have signed a petition calling for tougher action and for an emergency to be declared across the vast Siberia region.

There has been widespread anger after comments by emergencies officials that they are not planning to tackle wildfires in remote uninhabited areas because there is no direct threat to people.

This handout picture taken on July 30, 2019 from onboard a Be-200 firefighting aircraft and provided by the press-service of Russia's Krasnoyarsk Krai's forestry ministry shows smoke from forest fires filling the sky over the Boguchansky district.

Smoke from forest fires fills the sky over the Boguchansky district. Photo: AFP

Today, President Putin ordered service personnel of the defence ministry to join in the firefighting efforts in Siberia.

Ten planes and 10 helicopters with firefighting equipment are being deployed in the region.

A state of emergency was earlier declared in the Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk regions, two areas of the Republic of Buryatia and one area of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has flown into Krasnoyarsk city to chair a crisis meeting with local officials.

"The most important task is to prevent the fire from spreading to populated areas," he said.

 Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is welcomed by presidential envoy in the Siberian Federal District Sergey Menyaylo and governor of Krasnoyarsk Region Alexander Uss upon his arrival at the airport of Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, centre, arrives in Krasnoyarsk to chair a meeting on handling the wildfires emergency. Photo: AFP

He said everything had to be done to avoid a wildfire disaster like the one that hit Russia in 2010, when "practically the whole country was burning, and there were dozens of dead".

Last week, Greenpeace Russia tweeted that "big Siberian cities are covered with toxic haze that had already reached Urals".

The organisation estimated that 3.3 million hectares were burning across Russia, adding that this was bigger than the territory of Belgium.

The acrid smoke has affected not only remote villages and small towns but major cities such as Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk.

Wildfires in Russia have been raging for weeks, caused by record high temperatures combined with lightning and strong winds.

- BBC

A bird flies as the sun sets through heavy smog caused by forest fires in neighboring Krasnoyarsk region, in Novosibirsk, Russia. Alexandr Kryazhev / Sputnik

The sun sets through heavy smog caused by forest fires in neighbouring Krasnoyarsk region, in Novosibirsk, Russia, where a state of emergency has been declared. Photo: AFP

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