Lethal heat: abnormally-high temperatures cause destruction in Russia
According to media reports with reference to the Emergency Ministry, the total area of forest fires has currently topped 110,000 hectares. Strong winds have been fanning the flames, forcing villages, summer camps and hospitals to be evacuated.
Thousands of people have been left homeless. Many of them are staying in temporarily refugee centers.
Authorities are struggling to get the situation under control. Specialist aircraft have been deployed there to battle wildfires.
President Dmitry Medvedev has instructed local authorities to provide people who lost homes with new housing.
“After this unusually hot summer will be a cold winter. So we need at least to provide people with temporary housing and immediately start the construction of permanent homes. Both the Russian government and the regional administrations should certainly reserve resources to finance these needs,” he said.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the head of the Emergencies Ministry, Sergey Shoigu, are in the region of Nizhny Novgorod, one of the worst hit areas.
Vladimir Putin has talked to local residents and ensured them that the destroyed villages will be rebuilt.
"We will use heavy machinery to flatten the destroyed areas and build brand-new modern villages. The deadline is November 1, 2010," Putin promised.
Five billion roubles from the federal budget will be allocated to rebuilding regions that have been ravaged by fire.
Vladimir Markin from the Prosecutor's Office says the officials' handling of the situation will be investigated.
“Because forest fires have spread and killed people, destroyed and damaged buildings, the Central Investigation Committee at the Russian Prosecutor’s Office has instructed the heads of local investigation departments to assess the actions, or lack of action, of officials, which have resulted in such serious consequences,” he said. “Upon the result of these inspections, decisions will be made according to the Russian Criminal Procedure Code,” he added.
While firefighters are desperately seeking ways to contain the flames, Russian test pilot Aleksandr Akimenkov says the answer could be artificial climate change.
Russia has used planes to disperse clouds for special occasions and emergency situations. He claims the method could help bring rain to help tackle the wildfires.
“Dispersing clouds may not really be a job for the air force, but aviation can provide a solution until we find another way. Regarding the Chernobyl explosion, our crews hampered the rains and helped stop the spread of radioactive substances throughout the Soviet Union. It could work well in the present draught,” he believes.
To help the fire victims, activists from the “Starost v Radost” movement are collecting bed clothing, mattresses, summer and winter clothes, towels, dishware, frying pans, kettles, household appliances, lamps, food, kit furniture, and any other things people might need in such a situation.
If you want to help, please leave donations at the concierge’s post at 5/13 Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya, first entrance from 8 a.m. till 11 p.m. or at the Synodical Department of the Russian Orthodox Church, located at 57 Nikoloyamskaya Street, building 7, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more details, contact Liza Oleskina at +7-903-507-21-17.
You can also visit the activists' site (in Russian) and the Synodical Department's site (in Russian).
Moscow citizens are also experiencing hard times, struggling with smoke from burning fires. Medical authorities recommend covering faces with wet masks and limiting physical exercise.