News / Europe

Wildfires Continue to Rage Across Russia

Wildfires are raging across Russia as the country experiences the hottest temperatures on record. Russia's Emergency Ministry officials say 52 people are dead, thousands of homes have been destroyed and crops across the country have been devastated. The Russian government has admitted that it can't get some of the blazes under control, as ordinary citizens are trying to save their property and belongings.

Her face covered in soot, her clothes filthy and her hair slicked back from sweat, Anya Kirilova appears sad and exhausted as she looks out across her family's property as fires blaze about 91 meters away.

The only thing that separates her family's summer home from the flames, is a less than one-meter wide trench she and her father dug themselves.

The young woman's eyes water from the smoke as she describes her family's ordeal to try and get the fire department to come and help save what she calls an eight-year labor of love.

"We couldn't even reach them by the phone. Not the forest government company, not the fire company. They just didn't answer the phone. We called them 10 times, every half an hour. Then they just said they couldn't do anything. We have only two cars, bla, bla, bla," she said.

The family's dacha is near Pavlovo Pasad, in the Moscow region, just 68 kilometers away from Russia's capital.

Valarey Gevardarsky is with the 110th fire brigade. He says he understands Kirilova's frustration, but he's in charge of seven other regions and he's got outdated equipment. He says he only has four trucks and only two hold water. Making matters even more difficult, he says the trucks must drive to a well in order to get water.

He says the well is more than three kilometers away, there is nothing closer. He says the trucks have to spit out the water, and then go back and refuel, making putting out the fires even more difficult.

Gevardarsky also says Russia doesn't have enough qualified firefighters to even begin to tackle some 300 fires that have been sprouting up daily across the country,  since the blazes began.

He says, if we had more people, we'd get better results. He says his department has been rounding up about 10 workers a day, and that's just not enough to help.

The latest government statistics show that Russia only has some 10,000 firefighters. As a result, the Kremlin has recruited hundreds of thousands of untrained volunteers to help battle the blazes.

Valery Tarasav is one of them. He's wearing shorts, no shirt and flip-flops. Smoking a cigarette, he throws a bucket of water on one of the fires that is quickly encroaching on a home in Kirilova's neighborhood.

"I'm not here to think. I'm just here to do," he said. "Our president has asked for our help in protecting what's ours and that's why he's here, to protect his family."

Meanwhile, for the first time since the blazes began, Russian authorities are now admitting that they can't get the fires under control.

Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu stopped short of admitting that the country lacked the proper equipment, infrastructure and manpower to combat the blazes, saying only that Russia will buy more equipment for the future.

He says the Kremlin will buy eight planes over the next two years, in addition to helicopters. He says squadrons will also be created across the country, so that things like this don't happen in the future.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has also urged Shoigu to create a separate program to finance technical equipment for all firefighters, saying that because the climate is changing, Russia may need more technical assistance in the future.

Back in Pavlovo Pasad, Anya Kirilova says the promise of equipment to stop future forest fires does her no good, because right now, she needs a system that works.

"In the United States, when I was there, I lived in some dormitory.  Some guys tried to cook popcorn in microwave; smoke indicators reacted and fire machines came in five minutes. They told us to leave the building. They did everything, they checked everything. I felt safe even though it's not even my country. Our country's government, it's not their forest. They don't care," she said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently criticized authorities for not doing more to stop the damage and promised to fire anyone who didn't do their part to combat the blazes.

Forecasters say temperatures are expected to remain near 40 degrees Celsius for at least the next week, with no rain in sight.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid