Wildfires – Siberia
Massive wildfires sweeping through Russia have spread to an area the size of annexed Crimea as regional authorities have been slow to declare emergencies and firefighting efforts have been scaled back.
Scientists have observed an “unprecedented” number of wildfires in Siberia and the Russian Arctic since June. Russian authorities have said a combination of lightning and human activity may have sparked the flames.
More than 2.7 million hectares of remote forest is currently burning across six Siberian and Far East regions, according to Russia’s Federal Forestry Agency, an area roughly equal to the size of Crimea.
Regional emergency authorities have opted against extinguishing the more than 300 forest fires that are engulfing hard-to-reach areas, saying inhabited areas are “not under threat” and “projected extinguishing costs exceed their projected harm.”
It’s “pointless and at times even harmful” to try to extinguish the flames, Krasnoyarsk region governor Alexander Uss was quoted as saying by the Vedomosti business daily. Speaking at a youth forum on Sunday, Uss compared the wildfires to a summertime equivalent of winter blizzards.
More than 11 million hectares have been affected this wildfire season, Greenpeace Russia said in a statement Friday, calling on the authorities to step up firefighting efforts in the affected areas.