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 He says he understands Kirilova's frustration, but he's in charge of seven other regions and he's got outdated equipment.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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs