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 He says he understands Kirilova's frustration, but he's in charge of seven other regions and he's got outdated equipment.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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid