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 He says he understands Kirilova's frustration, but he's in charge of seven other regions and he's got outdated equipment.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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid