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Five dead, 70 injured, 118 buildings damaged as fires rage in Khakassia 

12 April 2015

Plane, three fire trains and 5,000 people fighting as dry grass ignites 'like gunpowder'.

'The situation changes every minute. Fires put out in one place soon flare up in another town or village.' Picture: ITAR-TASS

The fires went out of control after the burning of dry grass on farms in the southern republic, even though local rivers are lakes are still covered in ice. Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov ordered a special fire prevention regime across Siberia. At least 21 towns and villages were hit by the raging flames in Khakassia. 

'As a result of uncontrolled burning, dry weather, strong and rough wind, residential dwellings went on fire,' said Viktor Yatsutsenko, head of the National Crisis Control Centre of Russia's Emergencies Ministry. Some of the injured were said to be in a 'grave condition'.

Firerighting efforts were hampered because local reservoirs are still frozen. 

'Over 70 people asked for medical help, and two people died,' said a government official in Khakassia. Later it was reported that the death toll had reached five. 'Over 100 houses in 21 villages are on fire.'

'The situation changes every minute. Fires put out in one place soon flare up in another town or village. The number of those injured also changes all the time,' a spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry told TASS.

A call was made for 'residents of the region to battle the fire, which began because of residents themselves,  after uncontrolled grass burning'. The Russian Defence Ministry and Emergencies Ministry said they were sending aircraft to help fight the fires.

'I order the introduction of a special fire prevention regime in all Siberian regions,' said Puchkov. 'As soon as snow melts while rivers are still covered by ice, dry grass burns like gunpowder.'

He added: 'People begin to burn grass on their plots and fire spreads to agricultural land and pastures are burnt.'

Temporary camps were set up in the republic's Beisky and Shirinsky districts to accommodate people affected by the fire, said the republic's government.

'Two Il-76 planes have flown from Moscow to extinguish the fires. 'Overall, over 5,000 rescue workers and about 1,300 pieces of equipment are involved in the fire-extinguishing effort in the republic.'

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