EnvironmentRussia ramps up Siberia blazes battle

Russia ramps up Siberia blazes battle


Yakutsk, Russia: On Friday, Russia established a national response center and dispatched extra firefighters to combat the country’s coldest province, Yakutia in Siberia, which is seeing record-breaking wildfires.

While Siberia has an annual wildfire season in the summer, the fires have become more intense in recent years, which Russian meteorologists and environmentalists attribute to climate change.

According to Russia’s forestry department, flames have burnt across more than 9.4 million hectares (23.2 million acres) in Yakutia, one of the hardest-hit regions this year. This is an area larger than Portugal.

The emergency ministry said a national response center had been established to combat the fires in Yakutia, a sparsely populated territory about five times the size of France, and that it would be in charge of day-to-day management.

It also stated that it had dispatched additional 200 experts to assist the more than 5,000 workers who are actively battling the fires in the area.

On the instructions of President Vladimir Putin, who also requested troops to combat the fires, emergency ministry officials arrived in Yakutia on Thursday to oversee operations.

The regional capital of Yakutsk was blanketed in thick smog on Friday, which was declared a non-working day in much of the region due to health concerns caused by wildfire smoke.

“It’s very bad, there’s a lot of smoke, it’s difficult to breathe,” resident Yevgeniya Bubyakina, 87, told AFP.

“It is a serious catastrophe,” 16-year-old Yelizaveta said.

The ecology ministry in Chelyabinsk, 3,800 kilometers (2,300 miles) to the southwest, said it was witnessing higher than average levels of poisonous hydrogen sulfide as a result of smog that had traveled from Yakutia.

According to the TASS news agency, households should keep their windows closed at night.

Wildfires have scorched roughly 16.6 million acres across Russia, approaching the country’s record fire season this century, which burned 18.1 million acres in 2012.


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