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Death toll rises 'to 15' in Khakassia fires as republic mourns

By The Siberian Times reporter
13 April 2015

Premier Dmitry Medvedev launches inquiry into the tragedy which leaves almost 600 injured. 

Some 1,200 homes were lost to raging flames fuelled by strong winds. Picture: vk.com/fotohakasiay

One child was among the dead with most victims suffering from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. The toll of 15 was announced by the Regional Center for Disaster Medicine while the regional Ministry of Health reported that ten had perished. 

Some 1,200 homes were lost to raging flames fuelled by strong winds. Some 62 were hospitalised. Others were hospitalised and later sent home or to special shelters for families in the blitzed communities. 

In a fast-moving situation in the southern Siberian republic, it was clear many families have suffered grievously from vicious spread of fire caused when the burning of dry grass in fields got out of control. 

One senior Russian official spoke of the flames igniting like 'gunpowder'. A pall of acrid smoke hangs over the remote and mountainous region.

An heroic effort by firefighters - including thousands of volunteers and brigades drafted in from neighbouring regions - saved up to 60,000 homes from destruction. Fires hit some 40 settlements.

Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia

In a fast-moving situation in the southern Siberian republic, it was clear many families have suffered grievously from vicious spread of fire caused when the burning of dry grass in fields got out of control. Pictures: Vkontakte

By Monday there were reports that all the fires were put out, but there was concern that the incendiary conditions remain. 

'All the fires in the territory of Khakasia have been extinguished today. But the fire-fighters will stay here. They are on duty round-the-clock to prevent new fires,' said Boris Borzov, chief fire supervision inspector of the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

The ministry deployed several planes and helicopters to fight the fires. Special trains were also used. 

Premier Medvedev instructed Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov and Khakassia leader Viktor Zimin 'to conduct a through investigation into the fires and to assess the damage', said sources in the Khakassia government. 'A special commission will be in charge of the investigation.'

Zimin 'informed the prime minister about the situation in the republic, saying that it was getting back to normal, but, nevertheless, remained very complicated'.

A key question is whether warnings were heeded by local officials. Such fires are a known risk at this time of year from dry grass - even though local rivers and lakes remain frozen. In all some 5,000 firefighters battled to halt the flames. 

'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.

Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia

A call was made for 'residents of the region to battle the fire, which began because of residents themselves, after uncontrolled grass burning.' Pictures: Vkontakte

Some of the injured were said to be in a 'grave condition'.

A call was made for 'residents of the region to battle the fire, which began because of residents themselves, after uncontrolled grass burning'.

'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 were  flown from Moscow to extinguish the fires. 

Comments (1)

Sorry to hear about this tragedy & loss of property, but more importantly, Life. My sympathies to the family & friends of the bereaved. PS. Could the Russian government not supply planes & helicopters for use to douse the flames with water from the sky?
Jaker, Dundalk
14/04/2015 02:10
4
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