Russia in losing battle against spreading wildfires

Aug 5th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

MOSCOW (AFP) — Russia waged a losing battle Thursday to contain the worst wildfires in its modern history that have killed 50, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin banned grain exports due to the drought.

New fires were appearing faster than the emergency services could put out the old ones as the total affected area nationwide increased by around 7,000 hectares to 196,000 hectares (482,000 acres), the emergencies ministry said.

“In the last day, the situation in Russia, in particularly in the Volga and central regions, had remained complicated,” said the head of the ministry’s crisis centre Vladimir Stepanov.

The death toll rose to 50 after a corpse was found in a burned-down house in the Nizhny Novgorod region and another victim died in hospital in the Voronezh region, the ministry said.

“In the course of the last 24 hours, 373 fires have appeared and 254 have been extinguished. As a result there are now 589 wildfires burning in Russia covering an area of 196,000 hectares,” it said.

According to the ministry, 162,000 emergency workers have been deployed to douse the flames, which have now been raging in the affected area in central Russia for a week.

Officials have lashed out at weekend picnickers who considerably exacerbated the situation by leaving campfires burning which then turned into major blazes. But there has been no suggestion of deliberate arson.

With the situation escalating, Medvedev warned Russia’s top two naval commanders and sacked a number of high-ranking officers for failing to prevent a wildfire spreading to a military base last week.

Fires in the countryside had ripped through a naval logistics base southeast of Moscow, destroying the staff headquarters, financial department, 13 warehouses containing aeronautical equipment and 17 storage areas containing vehicles.

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