Siberia wildfires arrive early after warmest winter in recorded history – 137 forest fires burn across 152,000 hectares – Putin pledges $100 million in aidPosted by Jim at Friday, April 17, 2015
16 April 2015 (The Moscow Times) – President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the federal government would send at least 5 billion rubles ($100 million) to the southern Siberian republic of Khakasia, ravaged by wildfires in recent weeks.
"I talked with the governor today. … About 2,400 homes need to be rebuilt. This will require money from the federal budget, about 5 or 6 billion rubles," Putin said during his annual call-in show, according to the Interfax news agency.
Dozens of people have died and about a thousand have sought medical attention because of the fires, linked to small agricultural brushfires that grew out of control amid abnormally dry conditions, according to local authorities.
On the same day, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's Cabinet allocated almost 700 million rubles ($14 million) in aid to Khakasia.
About 80 percent of that aid is for assisting individuals whose properties burned down, the government said in an online statement.
Some 20 million rubles ($400,000) will go to compensating victims' families and covering funeral costs, the statement said.
But the government may need to consider sending aid to other areas as well.
Because of the fires, emergency situations have been declared in four Russian republics and regions in addition to Khakasia: Zabaikalsky, Buryatia and Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, as well as Amur in the Far East.
On Thursday morning, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said that 137 forest fires were burning across 152,000 hectares of land throughout the country, Interfax reported.
15 April 2015 (The Siberian Times) – There were desperate pleas for volunteer firefighters in Chita last night as flames threatened to ravage the outskirts of the city, with one eye-witness warning of a 'wall' of fire. Deep into the night, residents came to counter the flames.
One volunteer Alexey Kuzubov pleaded dramatically on social media site Vkontakte: 'The situation is very bad on the hill now! Anyone who wants, who can help come here !!! Now the fire in the 2-3 km from the ring road ~' 'Hills are burning, all goes to the city !!!! Very little of us here!!!'
Another volunteer Nikolay Fedotov said: 'Hard to say, how far away the fire is away from the city ... Think the distance is two or three kilometers from one part of the city. Now going there again. Came to the city to refuel, take drinking water.
'Very difficult now. About 100 volunteers (maybe less) and about a dozen pieces of fire equipment went there. Fire is like a wall. Hard to stop it. Most of people are trying to fill up the fire with shovels'.
There were reports that the raging fires had spread into China - and also denials that this had happened. Reports by Chinese emergency rescue services said wildfires had hit Argun, Inner Mongolia Province, destroying at least 85 residential and farm buildings, as well as vehicles and other hardware.
The Xinxua News Agency said the economic damage was put at $3.2 million.
In Trans-Baikal region, there were reports that at least three people perished in the fires. A three-year-old girl was among the dead as more than 1,850 people try to quell blaze that shows no signs of stopping.
A man, a woman and a three-year-old girl died in the fires, said regional Health Minister Mikhail Lazutkin. The man's death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, the woman died of a heart attack, and the girl during the evacuation from the burning village. Another 20 people were hurt, Lazutkin said.
It was the second deadly wildfire outbreak, now engulfing Trans-Baikal region after previously hitting the Khakassia republic. The area hit by flames increased 12-fold in size since Monday.
Originally the fire had been affecting 3,000 hectares but, aided by strong winds and dry conditions, it has now spread to 45,000 hectares. According to the Ministry of Health, three people have died and dozens have been injured or required treatment, but it is feared this could rise.
At least 23 people are dead in Khakassia.
Chita, the Trans-Baikal capital, was shrouded in acrid smoke for the second day with visibility in the city no more than 200 to 300 metres and a strong smell of burning in the air. [more]