The overwhelming heat that has been raging Russia for 1.5 months and triggered forest fires in Russia's central and southern territories has become a matter of state importance. President Dmitry Medvedev held telephone conversations with governmental and regional officials and ordered to take additional emergency measures to liquidate the fires.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived in the Nizhny Novgorod region, which suffered from forest fires most. Putin criticized irresponsible local officials and promised to pay compensations to those who suffered from the fires.
Medvedev was on the phone with the governor of the Voronezh region Aleksey Gordeyev, the Nizhny Novgorod region governor Valery Shantsev and the head of Russia's EMERCOM Sergey Shoygu. The president ordered the government to take all necessary measures to strengthen fire safety and prevent new fires against the background of anomalous heat. The president also ordered to prepare propositions about the acquisition of additional technology used in the struggle against fires, including Be-200 water bomber planes.
Putin arrived in the Nizhny Novgorod region on Thursday night, July 29. He visited the Vyksunsky district, where fires completely destroyed two villages and caused damage to three others. The homeless fire victims will be paid 200,000 rubles each (over $6,600), Putin said.
When talking to people, Putin said that the law stipulated a compensation of 50,000 rubles ($1,600), but he agreed that it was a very small amount of money, Pravda.Ru reports.
"Taking into consideration the scale of the natural disaster, it will be 100,000 rubles per person from the federal budget and the extra 100,000 from the regional budget," Putin said.
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People also complained of the local authorities, which, as they claimed, could not handle the situation. Putin promised to look into the matter. "Prosecutors will investigate the actions taken by each official," he said. The PM also stated that those officials who had doubts about their own actions during a state of emergency should send it their resignations voluntarily.
"We do everything possible to help you. I want to tell you that you have been heard. All the houses in the settlement [Verkhnaya Vereya, which burnt to the ground] will be built anew by winter time. I promise that the village will be reconstructed," news agencies quoted Putin as saying.
Afterwards, Putin said during an official meeting at the local administration that many people had lost all their possessions in fire.
"I have just talked to the people. Some of them have lost everything, all they had was a pair of trousers that they were wearing," he said.
Putin asked the officials not to add to much bureaucracy in the solution of the problem.
The head of Russia's EMERCOM Sergey Shoygu told Putin that forest fires had destroyed 1,170 houses in the Central and the Privolzhsky regions of Russia. 2,178 people became homeless as a result of the disaster, he added.
At least five people have died, 34 injured and over 900 homes have burned down in three central Russian regions in the last 24 hours, a police source said on Friday. The ministry has not received reports of human casualties from the Nizhny Novgorod region, but at least 1,662 residents have been evacuated from the areas threatened by quickly spreading fires, RIA Novosti reports.
Investigating authorities of the Nizhni Novgorod showed immediate reaction to Putin's remarks to investigate the fact of forest fire escalation in the disaster-stricken area.