Russia declares emergency as forest fires rage

A state of emergency was declared in seven Russian regions yesterday, as authorities struggled to cope with forest fires which have been burning for a week.

A total of 34 people have died and thousands have been left homeless by the blazes, which have been prompted by one of the most severe heatwaves to hit European Russia in recorded history.

President Dmitry Medvedev referred to the fires as a "huge tragedy" yesterday, and said the state would do everything it could to help those affected.

"More than 2,000 of our citizens have been left without roofs over their heads," he said. "Many families have been left with absolutely nothing at all."

The army has been called in to help tackle the fires, which are expected to continue raging as temperatures show no sign of dropping. The state of emergency means that people will be banned from entering areas deemed at high risk for new fires. Many of the blazes have been sparked by discarded cigarette ends or barbecues. Mr Medvedev appealed to Russians to be extra vigilant.

"Much depends on our behaviour," he said. "It's difficult to be in the city – it's hot and sweaty, and everyone wants to go to the countryside. But we need to be very attentive and careful here. Remember that a single match thrown carelessly can lead to irreparable disaster."

In some regions of European Russia, whole villages have been burned to the ground by the fires. Late last week, Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister, travelled to Verkhnyaya Vereya, where 337 of the village's 341 houses have been destroyed. He spent time reassuring distraught residents, and promising that houses would be fully rebuilt before winter sets in. In some areas there have been complaints that local officials were too slow to respond to the fires, and many residents of Verkhnyaya Vereya told Mr Putin that their calls to emergency services went unanswered.

The Prime Minister told officials that they would have to work weekends until the fires were under control. "Neither fire nor wind have days off, so we can't take any days off either," said Mr Putin.

The promise of new housing and compensation for victims of the fires has led to a whole host of rumours that some Russians are burning down their own houses. A caller to a Russian radio station yesterday morning from the Vladimir Region claimed that neighbours in his village had decided to set fire to their houses after hearing that a German company would be building replacement homes for victims. Mr Putin said that all compensation claims would be thoroughly checked.

Aside from the fires, the high temperatures across Russia are causing other problems. Few buildings have air conditioning and shops have sold out of fans. Dozens of Russians seeking refuge from the heat in ponds and lakes drown each day, many of them reportedly drunk.

Temperatures in Moscow have repeatedly broken records during the past month, with the hottest temperature in recorded history achieved last week.

The record is expected to be broken again this week, with temperatures of up to 40 degrees forecast for Friday. Peat bog fires on the outskirts of the city have also meant that on several days the capital has been shrouded in acrid smog.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Reconciliation Analyst

£200 - £250 per day: Orgtel: Reconciliation Analyst Gloucestershire

Soutions Architect TOGAF - Reading

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Excellent Corporate Benefits: Progressive Recruitm...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on