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Forest Fires Burn in Russian Far East - 2002-05-16

Forest fires have burned thousands of hectares in the Russian far east. The fires have destroyed part of a village in the area, and now threaten more homes.

More than half the houses in the village of Borovoye in eastern Siberia burned to the ground, as forest fires in the region started to reach populated areas.

So far, there are no reported casualties among the town's residents. A helicopter carrying food and medical supplies flew to the village and residents are being housed in a local school and cultural center.

Forest fires have been raging for weeks in eastern Siberia. Russian media report about 40,000 hectares were ablaze as of Thursday morning, mostly in uninhabited forest areas. Russian television showed pictures of the forest fires, with clouds of smoke blanketing the region.

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the blazes, and a state of emergency has been declared in some regions.

Although forest fires are common in Siberia, this year has been especially bad, with abnormally dry, warm weather.

The fire-fighting and rescue efforts are hampered by the fact that agencies do not have enough money to pay for extra workers or planes and helicopters that are needed to reach the remote areas where the fires are burning.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, funding for firefighters has fallen dramatically, along with funding for many government programs.