Wildfires in Russia’s Siberia are getting out of control, with little attention being given to them.
Firefighters and volunteers have resorted to publishing please for help on Instagram and other social media.
The extraordinary forest fires, which have already burned through 1.5m hectares of land in north-east Siberia have released choking smog across Russia’s Yakutia region, where officials have described this summer’s weather as the driest in the past 150 years.
“The situation with wildfires in our republic is very difficult. I repeat that we are experiencing the driest summer in the past 150 years in Yakutia, and the month of June was the hottest on record. This, together with the dry thunderstorms that occur nearly daily in our republic, brought about significant wildfires,” Aysen Nikolayev, Yakutia’s governor, told reporters.
Smoke from the fires covered 51 towns, settlements and cities in the region, including the capital Yakutsk, forcing authorities to suspend all flights in and out of the city.
“We can’t see each other because of the smoke, our eyes are burning and overall the smoke is very dangerous for the health of us villagers,” said Vasiliy Krivoshapkin, resident of Magaras. “We see on television planes that are dropping water on the burning forest but they aren’t sending these planes to help us for some reason. Why is there no help?”
On July 18th, Russia’s Emergency Ministry said it had deployed two amphibious aircraft to Yakutia to help tackle the fires. More than 2,200 people are involved in the firefighting effort.
And that follows five years of hot summers, which have, according to villagers, turned the surrounding forests and fields into a tinderbox.
Every morning and evening for the last few days, shifts of young villagers have headed out into the taiga forest around Teryut in an attempt to quell the flames.
“For a month already you can’t see anything through the smoke,” said Varvara, a 63-year-old pensioner from Teryut, a village in the Oymyakonsky district. “We have already sent the small children away. And the fires are very close, just 2km [1.2 miles] from our village.”
In less than two months, fires in the region have spewed out around 150 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – close to the 2017 annual fossil fuel emissions of Venezuela, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), part of an European Union observation programme.
On July 19th, a Beriev Be-200 amphibious plane flown in from another Siberian region joined a massive effort to contain the blaze involving more than 2,000 firefighters on the ground.
Around 123 fires raged on July 19th over an area of more than 885,000 hectares, the region’s environment and forest ministry said.
Firefighters took special care to contain one fire covering 41,300 hectares, it said.
“There’s a natural water barrier from the river Vilyuy, but the fire is potentially dangerous for the … Svetlinskaya hydroelectric power station,” it said.
Smaller-scale fires burned in less remote parts of the country.
More than 6,500 firefighters fought to contain blazes across the country. In Karelia, a region that borders Finland, authorities evacuated more than 600 people from villages due to fires, the TASS news agency reported.
The floods in Germany, as well as the massive wildfires in Australia received global response, calls of support and offers of help. Meanwhile, there’s barely any mention of the disaster in Russia, as well as no assistance evidently coming, as citizens are pleading for help from anybody at all.
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