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Russia Faces Gloomy Aftermath of Forest Fires

18.08.2010
 
Russia Faces Gloomy Aftermath of Forest Fires

The Russian summer of fires and heat is drawing to its end. Nearly all forest fires in the country have been extinguished. Now the country will have to face the aftermath of the natural disaster, which unexpectedly took the national scale and affected many lives. Experts are now trying to calculate the damage, which the fires caused, hoping that the total number will not exceed 10 billion rubles.

In the meantime, many villages that have been destroyed with forest fires, are still in smoke. Pravda.Ru's special correspondent Dmitry Reznichenko went on a hitchhiking trip across the regions, which suffered from the fires most.

Here is his first field report.

I arrived in the town of Kolomna the day before Putin came here. It was pouring rain the whole night through. Local officials were obviously busy with making preparations to the prime minister's visit. As it traditionally happens, they ordered to repair roads here and there.

The town is shrouded in smoke. The smoke comes from large swamps near Shatura. Putin will arrive in the town to see which efforts the authorities were taking to extinguish the fires. Peat bog fires occur here every year, but this year was the hardest at this point.

Placards with warnings of possible wildfires are plastered all over the town. I saw a very expressive cross street banner saying "Entry to the forest forbidden!" There was also a red skull displayed next to was warning. It was a stylish creation indeed, the image of the skull could be very good for a tattoo.

Local residents say that the fires started neat the Blue Lakes, which is a very popular place in the town. Many locals go there for camping, picnicking and swimming. It was practically impossible to extinguish the fires during extremely hot and windy weather. The fire was spreading too quickly.

Eyewitnesses of the fires said that they could see many fire-fighting vehicles parked across the smoke-shrouded highway. The fire-fighting brigades were simply standing there and watching. What could they do? A vehicle can not drive into the forest. Aircraft could be a way out, but any type of aviation is useless when literally every tree around was in flames.

There was a military unit not far from the Blue Lakes - it burnt to the ground.

Many locals showed me their pictures and videos, which they had taken with their cell phones. Some people told me that the forest had been set on fire deliberately - to clear the territory for future construction works. This is what they think, they said.

Some people lost their wooden country houses which they had been building for years, scraping and saving. Others set their dachas on fire themselves after they heard that the government was promising compensations to those who lost their possessions in flames.

A traditional Russian village, where all houses are made of wood, can be engulfed in flames in several minutes, if the wind is strong enough.

In conclusion, I'd like to mention here that there are no birds in the woods here. Not even a sound of a singing bird.

Dmitry Reznichenko
Pravda.Ru

Read the original in Russian

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