3 Aug 2010

Russia declares state of emergency over wildfires

10:01 am on 3 August 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has declared a state of emergency in seven regions because of deadly wildfires.

At least 40 people have died in the fires, caused by record temperatures and drought.

The decree allows the authorities to restrict public access to areas where their presence could pose a fire hazard, and to call on the armed forces to put out and prevent fires.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has also ordered authorities to protect weapons sites, power plants and other vital facilities.

Mr Putin told regional governors at an urgent meeting to present a detailed reconstruction plan.

The government has faced unusual public criticism that the authorities were slow to react to the spreading fires last week.

At least 1875 houses have been destroyed in fires, leaving more than 2000 people homeless, the regional development ministry says, with about 128,000 hectares of land on fire.

The emergency has been declared in the regions of Mairi El, Mordovia, Vladimir, Voronezh, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan.