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Russia Wildfires threatened nuclear areas

Russia sends army to battle deadly wildfires
At least 28 dead, all 341 homes in one village destroyed

July  31, 2010      

Russia sent the army on Saturday to battle wildfires that have killed at least 28 people and were threatening dozens of towns and villages. Thick smoke and ash slowed firefighting efforts and thousands of people were being evacuated.

Half of the 300 homes in the village of Maslovka, half a day's drive south of Moscow, were reduced to cinders. Stunned locals sifted through the ash for possessions to salvage and people pooled what little food they had — mainly potatoes and carrots — to ensure no one starved.

"This is a catastrophe," Maslovka resident Yevgeniya Yuzhina said as she waited in a hotel lobby in the nearby city of Voronezh filling out a form to receive cash compensation.
All 300 of the army's fire trucks have been dispatched, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said,

Many regions of the country are suffering through their hottest summer since record-keeping began 130 years ago. Officials said Friday over 214,136 acres of parched woodland and peat bog were burning in at least 14 of the country's 83 regions, mainly in western Russia. State television reported Saturday that the death had risen from the last reported figure of 25, without providing details.

"Fire and wind have no days off, so we can't take any days off," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a videoconference with emergency officials, where he announced 3 million rubles ($100,000) would be allocated for each of the 1,200 homes destroyed so far. He pledged that all would eventually be rebuilt.

Yuzhina said her house had been worth half a million rubles more than the amount Putin pledged and her husband, daughter and elderly parents now had no place to go.


Russia battles to defend nuclear sites from fires

August 11,  2010    

Russia fought a deadly battle Tuesday to prevent wildfires from engulfing key nuclear sites as alarm mounted over the impact on health of a toxic smoke cloud shrouded over Moscow.
Two soldiers were killed by blazing trees as they worked to put out a fire dangerously close to Russia's main nuclear research centre, while workers were also mobilised to fight blazes near a nuclear reprocessing plant.
After almost two weeks of fires that have claimed over 50 lives and even part destroyed a military storage site, the authorities said they were making progress in fighting fires that still covered 174,035 hectares of land

"A positive dynamic in liquidating the wildfires continues to be observed," said the head of the emergencies ministry's crisis unit, Vladimir Stepanov.
"The numbers (of emergency workers) have been increased in those regions where there is a difficult situation with the fires," he added.

The emergencies ministry said that over the last 24 hours, 247 new fires had appeared, more than the 239 that were extinguished, and 557 fires were still raging across the affected region.

Two members of the Russian armed forces were killed Monday fighting wildfires around the major nuclear research centre in Sarov, a town still closed to foreigners as in Soviet times.

Reporting the first death, Interfax news agency said "A burning tree fell on the soldier. He died of cranial trauma on the way to the hospital," quoting defence ministry spokesman Vasily Panchenkov.

The local crisis unit later confirmed that another serviceman, who usually worked at a local prison camp, was also killed by a burning tree while fighting the fire, Interfax said.

Meanwhile, officials said fires close to the town of Snezhinsk in the Urals and home to one of Russia's top nuclear research centres had been localised.

The acrid smog from wildfires 100 kilometres (60 miles) out in the countryside that descended over Moscow lightened Tuesday morning but forecasters warned it could return and the air quality was still dangerously poor.

The Moscow authorities acknowledged for the first time on Monday that the daily mortality rate in Moscow had doubled and morgues were overflowing with bodies but the federal government has yet to confirm that statistic.

Carbon monoxide in the Moscow air was 1.4 times higher than acceptable levels Tuesday, the state pollution watchdog said, a slight improvement from the day before. On Saturday they had been an alarming 6.6 times worse.

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, meeting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the first time since returning from a much-criticised holiday, said calls to the emergency health services in Moscow had grown by one-fifth.
Luzhkov initially refused to return from holiday, with his aides earning ridicule in the tabloid press by denying there was any crisis in the city.

"You of course did the right thing by coming back from holiday. You did it on time," Putin said pointedly.

The authorities have rejected criticism that they were poorly prepared for the heatwave, which meteorologists have said is the worst in the 1,000 year history of Russia.

"Even if we had started (preparing for the heatwave and fires) 10 years ago we would not have been able to do anything," President Dmitry Medvedev said late Monday on a visit to one of the worst affected regions.
Moreover Russia is such a vast country. "Putting out fires in Luxembourg is presumably easier than in Russia," he remarked.

The heatwave has a huge impact on all areas of Russian society and economists warned Tuesday the record temperatures could have cost the country 15 billion dollars and undercut a modest economic revival.
Worst hit has been the agriculture industry, which has seen 10 million hectares of land destroyed.

Putin, who shocked international markets last week by announcing that Russia was banning grain exports, slashed the grain harvest forecast by another 10 million tonnes.
He also warned the Moscow could even extend the export ban, due to expire on December 31, saying that anyone waiting for that date was doing so "in vain".


Russia's PM Putin climbs into firefighting plane, drops water on blazing forests


August 11, 2010     MOSCOW

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin climbed into a firefighting plane Tuesday and dumped water on two of the hundreds of wildfires sweeping through western Russia and cloaking Moscow in a suffocating smog.

Putin has been a very visible leader in the battle against the fires, which have caused billions of dollars in damage and left thousands homeless in the past two weeks. He has demanded that soldiers help overstretched firefighting brigades and has walked through smoldering villages, consoling residents and promising them new homes by fall.

But with his once sky-high approval ratings dropping — and sociologists warning that discontent could grow as the fires and a severe drought take their toll — Putin has not let up.

He took off Tuesday in a Be-200 firefighting plane and then moved into the copilot's seat. Television footage showed him pushing a button to unleash water on blazing forest fires about 120 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Moscow.

After hitting the button, Putin glanced toward the pilot and asked if that was OK.
The pilot answered - a direct hit!

The stunt was classic Putin. In past years, he has copiloted a fighter jet, ridden a horse bare-chested in Siberia and descended to the bottom of Lake Baikal in a mini-sub. Just last month he drove a Harley Davidson motorcycle to a biker rally.

All of his exploits have been widely publicized on the national television networks, which are under government control. Russia holds its next presidential election in 2012, and Putin would be eligible to run.

Damage from the fires was expected to hit $15 billion, or about 1 percent of Russia's gross domestic product, the business newspaper Kommersant reported Tuesday. The government has yet to release any damage estimates.

The hottest summer since record-keeping began 130 years ago has cost Russia more than a third of its wheat crop and prompted the government to ban wheat exports. Putin said last week the ban would last through the end of the year, but his deputy said Tuesday the government may consider lifting the ban in October once the harvest is complete.

The government is eager to prevent a sharp increase in the price of bread, which could lead to greater public dissatisfaction. The agriculture minister, speaking Tuesday on Ekho Moskvy radio, reassured Russians that there was no reason to expect retail bread prices to rise.

The acrid smog that has engulfed Moscow for a week eased a bit Tuesday, but the concentration of pollutants remained high. Putin summoned Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who said the situation in the capital was difficult but that city health authorities were doing what was needed to help people cope with the heat and smog.

Ambulances calls have risen by nearly a quarter, Luzhkov said.

The handling of the wildfire crisis could weigh heavily on approval ratings for Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, the business daily Vedomosti cited a sociologist as saying.

Vedomosti noted that three polls conducted in July showed Medvedev's rating had dropped up to 10 percentage points since the start of the year, and Putin's had declined by up to 6 percentage points. The paper cited Leonty Byzov, a leading sociologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, as saying the wildfires could drag those figures down even further and stoke anti-government protests.

The lowest approval ratings were reported by the independent Levada polling agency, which gave Medvedev 38 percent and Putin 44 percent. The highest were 52 for Medvedev and 61 for Putin, registered by the Public Opinion Foundation. The margin of error for the polls was about plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Sergei Gordeichenko, the head of the Forestry Agency for the Moscow region, was fired on Tuesday, following criticism from the president that he had not cut short his summer vacation to tend to the crisis.

Medvedev himself was slow to interrupt his Black Sea vacation even as fires around Moscow grew worse, and, unlike Putin — who went out in jeans to meet with sobbing villagers and exhausted firefighters — mostly conferred with officials after his return.

After his firefighting flight, Putin visited another village destroyed by fire and again promised residents that they would be fully compensated.

Putin also offered reassurances to residents of Moscow that something would finally be done about the dried-up peat bogs outside the city that often burn in the summer and where fires this year have sent out thick plumes of smoke. He said 300 million rubles ($10 million) would be allocated to flood the peat bogs.


Drought, Fire and Grain in Russia

By Lauren Goodrich

August 10, 2010   Stratfor intel

Three interlocking crises are striking Russia simultaneously: the highest recorded temperatures Russia has seen in 130 years of recordkeeping; the most widespread drought in more than three decades; and massive wildfires that have stretched across seven regions, including Moscow.

The crises threaten the wheat harvest in Russia, which is one of the world’s largest wheat exporters. Russia is no stranger to having drought affect its wheat crop, a commodity of critical importance to Moscow’s domestic tranquility and foreign policy. Despite the severity of the heat, drought, and wildfires, Moscow’s wheat output will cover Russia’s domestic needs. Russia will also use the situation to merge its neighbors into a grain cartel.


We're seeing it in other parts of the world like Russia now - God has been long merciful to's only a matter of time before what we see in Russia makes its way here...

U.S. sends help as fires close in on Russian nuclear base


August 14,  2010    

The United States is sending firefighting equipment to Russia to help deal with 500 wildfires burning across the country, one of which threatens a nuclear base.

The blazes have been sparked by the hottest summer ever recorded in Russia, which has seen the death rate in Moscow alone double to 700 a day.

President Obama has called Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to express his condolences, and the White House said agencies including the Defence Department were airlifting firefighting gear to Russia.

Russia admitted yesterday that fires closing in on its main nuclear centre represent ‘a certain danger’ to the secret town which houses its most sophisticated research laboratories.

A huge round-the-clock operation is under way to prevent a vast blaze on a nearby nature reserve reaching Sarov, which is so sensitive that it is closed to all foreigners.

   * Wildfires just a mile from Russian secret nuclear town... but officials play down threat of radiation from Chernobyl

The fire was caused by lightning striking a pine tree.
Some 3,500 firemen and 200 pieces of equipment, including two trains, and a number of planes and helicopters are involved in the military-style operation 300 miles east of Moscow.

When the town – home of the Russian atomic bomb – was first threatened a week ago, some nuclear material was moved out for safe keeping.


Russia Burns

Radiation Alert - see map

August 13, 2010

A hasty evacuation of diplomatic staff from foreign embassies, like a stampede, began in Moscow.
Many embassies are trying to hide the evacuation for political reasons.
Mass evacuation of the embassies of Canada and Poland was officially reported at night on August 7.
Russia is sending 10,000 children and hundreds of elderly to Bulgaria and the Ukraine to save them from the smoldering heat and overpowering smog in Moscow, the city’s Mayor, Yriy Luzhkov, announced Tuesday.
Seventeen regions of Russia are currently aflame. Seven of them, including the Moscow region, have declared a state of emergency.

Physicians have urged Muscovites to avoid leaving their homes.
They warn that breathing the toxic air for just a couple of hours
has the same harmful effect as smoking two packs of cigarettes.

The U.S. State Department is allowing nonessential staff and dependents of the embassy in Moscow to leave if they want.  
Carbon monoxide in the Moscow air was 1.4 times higher than acceptable levels Tuesday, the state pollution watchdog said, a slight improvement from the day before.
On Saturday the levels had been an alarming 6.6 times worse.
The Canadian government has also initiated a partial evacuation of embassy staff and family members from Moscow due to the choking smog caused by raging fires around Russia’s capital.
Foreign Ministries of Germany, Bulgaria, France, Italy and other countries also appealed to their citizens not to travel to Russia.

Russia fought a deadly battle Tuesday to prevent wildfires from engulfing key nuclear sites as alarm mounted over the impact on health of a toxic smoke cloud shrouded over Moscow.
Russian troops dug a five-mile canal yesterday to protect one of the nuclear sites.
Bulgaria’s EU commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said that the EU is strongly concerned about the situation in Russia where wildfires have been raging for almost two weeks. “We are viewing the problem in Russia as something very grave, for as we all can see it affects the life and health of many people,” stated Georgieva.
see link for more, photos



August 2, 2010  
Last month, Russia endured the hottest July ever recorded since records began 130 years ago. The intense heat and drought affecting central Russia has been drying out trees and peat marshes, which have been catching fire recently, burning forests, fields and houses across a massive region. Some 500 new fires have been reported in the last 24 hours alone, and a mobilization of hundreds of thousands of emergency workers is underway to combat them. President Dmitry Medvedev has now declared a state of emergency in seven regions. To date, over 1,500 homes have been destroyed and 40 lives have been lost. as wildfires continue across over 300,000 acres. (38 photos total)


New Russia wildfires

Average of 700 people died per day for about a week in August in Moscow due to toxic smoke that emanated from wildfires [Reuters]

02 Sep 2010
Fresh wave of blazes engulfs southern towns, killing two people and destroying hundreds of homes.
A fresh wave of wildfires that engulfed more than a dozen villages and towns in southern Russia has destroyed hundreds of homes.
Hundreds of blazes driven by high winds and scorching temperatures burnt down nearly 500 buildings in about 20 villages in the Volgograd and Saratov provinces.
With the emergencies ministry warning the fires risked spreading to other southern regions, Russia ordered authorities to mobilise all means to fight them.

The latest fires claimed 2 lives.
Thursday's blazes come after destructive wildfires in July and August killed at least 54  in central Russia amid the country's worst heat wave ever recorded.

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