News / Europe

Russian Wildfire Threatens Nuclear Facility

TEXT SIZE - +

As record hot temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius continue to bake Russia, wildfires threaten the nation's nuclear-weapons laboratory and other military facilities.  A thick haze of wood smoke blankets Moscow.

While 3,000 firefighters battle flames and try to protect Russia's main nuclear weapons laboratory, the head of Russia's nuclear agency sought to reassure the public that all radioactive materials have been removed.

Nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko told President Dimitri Medvedev all explosive and radioactive materials have been taken away.  He said he guarantees there is no danger to nuclear security, no threat of radiation, explosions, or environmental consequence.

Eight firefighting planes and 20 trucks are helping to keep flames out of Sarov, the location of the country's top-secret nuclear research facility and a city closed to foreigners.

With 400 new fires breaking out daily and wood smoke blanketing Moscow in a gray, acrid haze, President Medvedev cut short a working holiday in southern Russia and flew back to the nation's capital.

He found a city in which eye-watering smoke has infiltrated high-rise office towers and penetrated underground subway trains.  With visibility sometimes reduced to 30 meters, drivers switched on their headlights at midday.

A spokeswoman for Moscow's state agency for monitoring air pollution, Yevgenia Semutnikova, said air pollution is three to four times higher than normal.  She said even healthy people should minimize their exposure to pollution and should avoid being outdoors during peak pollution hours.

Russia's chief doctor, Gennady Onishchenko, recommended people wear air filter masks in the city and only exert a "minimum of physical activity."  

Health experts say pollution levels in Moscow have climbed so high that living in the city is as damaging as smoking several packs of cigarettes a day.   

Since last week, wildfires have killed 48 people and destroyed 2,000 homes.  Responding to the emergency, Italy, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, have sent firefighting aircraft to Russia.

Meanwhile, President Medvedev publicly reprimanded the Navy Commander in Chief and fired the head of Naval Aviation and six other high-ranking officers for their part in trying for five days to cover up a disastrous fire at a storage depot near Moscow.


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid