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Wildfires engulf thousands of hectares in Siberia, Far East, rains spare other regions

May 11, 2016, 20:26 UTC+3 KRASNOYARSK

A total of 116 wildfires are raging in eight Russian regions, which has prompted the Emergencies Ministry and other relevant agencies to mobilize 45 amphibious aircraft to fight the fires

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© Kirill Kukhmar/TASS

KRASNOYARSK, May 11. /TASS/. Wildfires are again raging in Russia’s eastern regions like in the past year, with the largest number of fire outbreaks registered in the Amur Region in the Far East, the Republic of Buryatia and the Trans-Baikal Territory in East Siberia.

Meanwhile, rains and snow have eased the wildfire threat in the neighboring regions.

A total of 116 wildfires are raging in eight Russian regions, which has prompted the Emergencies Ministry and other relevant agencies to mobilize 45 amphibious aircraft to fight the fires, Head of the Ministry’s National Crisis Management Center Viktor Yatsutsenko reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a video link-up on Wednesday.

Hot spots

The Emergencies Ministry official mentioned the Amur Region, the Trans-Baikal Territory and Buryatia as the areas where the situation with forest fires was especially serious.

A total of 24 wildfires are raging in the Amur River basin on an area of 42,000 hectares. Both the emergency and the fire prevention regimes have been introduced in the areas hit by the forest fires. About 140 communities are located in the area of wildfires, with 23 of them in close vicinity to fire outbreaks.

"A decision has been made on the protection of populated settlements from fire as a top priority measure. This requires measures to constantly watch the situation with wildfires close to communities," Amur Region Governor Alexander Kozlov was quoted by the regional government’s press office as saying.

Teams are being set up in troops of Russia’s Eastern Military District to help fight wildfires.

As spokesman for the Eastern Military District Alexander Gordeyev said, more than 10 combined contingency squads of 15 to 50 men have been set up to reinforce fire-fighting teams and promptly respond to the emergence of threats. Repair brigades of the Amur branch of the Federal Grid Company have been placed on high alert.

As of Wednesday morning, 41 forest fires were active in the Trans-Baikal Territory on an area of 11,000 hectares. The area engulfed by the forest fires has increased threefold over the past twenty-four hours. Warm and windy weather prevailing in the region does not help the situation to come to normal.

"In the coming three days, we’ll see small local rains but they won’t reverse the situation," leading weather forecaster at the Trans-Baikal Weather Forecasting Center Lyudmila Leskova told TASS.

The area hit by forest fires in neighboring Buryatia has expanded by 50% in the past twenty-four hours, from 11,600 to 18,800 hectares.

Forests in the Irkutsk Region in East Siberia are engulfed by the fire on an area of 50 hectares. Peat bogs have been burning for the third consecutive day near the village of Plishkino. The peat bogs went ablaze after someone started burning dry grass amid a stormy wind.

As Head of the Weather Forecast Department of the Irkutsk Hydrometeorological Service Yulia Yankova said, the weather on the territory of the region will remain fire-hazardous until the end of May. The most serious wildfire threat may be posed to forests in the central and southern areas of the Angara River basin where daily temperatures are now climbing to plus 20 degrees Centigrade.

Praying for rain

Orthodox churches in the Amur Region are holding special services to pray for heavy rains.

As the Amur Region Weather Forecast Center has said, weak and moderate rains are expected on Wednesday in most districts and the cyclone will spread to the entire region during the next twenty-four hours.

Precipitation is expected from May 15-16 in the Khabarovsk Territory in the Russian Far East. As of the morning of May 11, twelve forest fires were registered in the region: 10 of them were active and one had been localized. A day before, 17 wildfires raged in the region on an area of 488 hectares.

Continued rains have considerably eased the wildfire threat in the Primorye Territory in the Russian Far East. No new fire outbreaks have been registered in the past twenty-four hours.

As the Emergencies Ministry’s branch for the Primorye Territory reported, satellite monitoring data show that only two new heat anomalies were revealed on the territory of the region on May 11 whereas in late April scores of such anomalies were registered a day.

The regional weather forecast center has said that continued rains have eased the wildfire threat in the region.

Rescuers have prevented forest fires from spreading to over 70 populated settlements across Russia in the past twenty-four hours alone with the help of aviation, Head of the Emergencies Ministry’s National Crisis Management Center Yatsutsenko said on Wednesday.

"The effective use of Be-200ChS planes jointly with the ground grouping of fire-fighting and rescue units has allowed preventing the spread of wildfires to over 70 populated areas in the past twenty-four hours alone," Yatsutsenko reported to Russian President Putin during a video link-up.

Four communities have been affected by forest fires this year, he said.

"The instances of fires spreading to houses have been registered in four populated settlements in three Russian regions since the beginning of the fire-hazardous season," he added.

The fire-fighting and rescue teams have been able to promptly evacuate the population, eliminate fire outbreaks and prevent any deaths from the fire, Yatsutsenko said.

"Efforts are under way to provide targeted assistance to the people who have lost their housing," the National Crisis Management Center chief said.

The main efforts are focused on protecting communities, economic and infrastructural facilities from fires, he added.

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