Moscow goes all out to combat raging wildfires - Europe

Moscow goes all out to combat raging wildfires

MOSCOW,Russia July 31, 2010-Russia has extinguished 387 of 787 new wildfires over the past 24 hours as the country strives to combat a spate of blazes triggered by an unrelenting heat wave.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said that a total of 826 fires were reported across Russia on Saturday, 39 of which were peat fires. The fires have burned a total area of more than 87,000 hectares (214,136 acres).

The wildfires reportedly were caused by the unprecedented heat wave and human negligence and were fanned by tornadoes in central and western parts of Russia, which is suffering its hottest summer since record-keeping began 130 years ago.

Meanwhile, officials said at least 30 people have been killed in the fires in the last three days. Three more bodies were found in Nizhny Novgorod region, pushing the number of fatalities in the region to 12.

The ministry said in a website statement that some 238,000 people, 25,000 vehicles and 16 aircraft are involved in the effort to extinguish the fires.

The ministry said that the forest fires across at least 14 of the country’s 83 regions have been put under control despite discouraging weather forecasts.

The Defense Ministry on Friday mobilized military forces, including all 300 of the army’s fire trucks, to help battle the blazes.

“We have created regional commanding offices for our troops that could help extinguishing the wildfires,” Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said. “We have put in everything we have, including all of our fire brigades.”

Also Saturday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered that subsidies be provided as an aid to citizens who lost homes in the forest fires.

Putin on Friday visited Verkhnyaya Vereya, a village in the Nizhny Novgorod region where all 341 homes were burned to the ground and five residents were killed. Putin promised the residents 200,000 rubles (6,600 U.S. dollars) each in compensation.

The government said that five billion rubles (some 165 million U.S. dollars) have been allocated to help build new houses, restore the infrastructure, and pay compensation for lost property and one-time allowances to the families of those who died in the fires.

Nationwide, the fires have destroyed 1,200 homes, mostly provincial village dwellings, officials said.

Source: Xinhua Chinese News Agency.