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Frantic battle to stop wildfires engulfing suburbs of Chita city

By The Siberian Times reporter
15 April 2015

Southern Siberia hit by punishing flames causing death and destruction.

'Very difficult now. About 100 volunteers (maybe less) and about a dozen pieces of fire equipment went there. Fire is like a wall. Hard to stop it.' Picture: Alexey Kuzubov

There were desperate pleas for volunteer firefighters in Chita last night as flames threatened to ravage the outskirts of the city, with one eye-witness warning of a 'wall' of fire. Deep into the night, residents came to counter the flames.

One volunteer Alexey Kuzubov pleaded dramatically on social media site Vkontakte: 'The situation is very bad on the hill now! Anyone who wants, who can help come here !!! Now the fire in the 2-3 km from the ring road ~' 'Hills are burning, all goes to the city !!!! Very little of us here!!!'

Another volunteer Nikolay Fedotov said: 'Hard to say, how far away the fire is away from the city ... Think the distance is two or three kilometers from one part of the city. Now going there again. Came to the city to refuel, take drinking water. 

'Very difficult now. About 100 volunteers (maybe less) and about a dozen pieces of fire equipment went there. Fire is like a wall. Hard to stop it. Most of people are trying to fill up the fire with shovels'.

Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region

It was the second deadly wildfire outbreak, now engulfing Trans-Baikal region after previously hitting the Khakassia republic. The area hit by flames increased 12-fold in size since Monday. Picture: Alexei Volovikov

There were reports that the raging fires had spread into China - and also denials that this had happened. Reports by Chinese emergency rescue services said wildfires had hit Argun, Inner Mongolia Province, destroying at least 85 residential and farm buildings, as well as vehicles and other hardware.

The Xinxua News Agency said the economic damage was put at $3.2 million.

In Trans-Baikal region, there were reports that at least three people perished in the fires. A three-year-old girl was among the dead as more than 1,850 people try to quell blaze that shows no signs of stopping.

A man, a woman and a three-year-old girl died in the fires, said regional Health Minister Mikhail Lazutkin. The man's death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, the woman died of a heart attack, and the girl during the evacuation from the burning village. Another 20 people were hurt, Lazutkin said.

It was the second deadly wildfire outbreak, now engulfing Trans-Baikal region after previously hitting the Khakassia republic. The area hit by flames increased 12-fold in size since Monday.

Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region

The fire damaged or completely destroyed 153 houses in 19 villages, which were home to more than 520 people, and burned dozens of dachas. Pictures: Alexandra Orlova

Originally the fire had been affecting 3,000 hectares but, aided by strong winds and dry conditions, it has now spread to 45,000 hectares. According to the Ministry of Health, three people have died and dozens have been injured or required treatment, but it is feared this could rise. 

At least 23 people dead in Khakassia.

Chita, the Trans-Baikal capital, was shrouded in acrid smoke for the second day with visibility in the city no more than 200 to 300 metres and a strong smell of burning in the air. 

The fire damaged or completely destroyed 153 houses in 19 villages, which were home to more than 520 people, and burned dozens of dachas. There are concerns that further strong winds today could exacerbate the situation.

Chita resident Soelma Sandakodorzhieva said: 'The fire is going from the west side to the east, and now everything is covered in smoke. Some people were evacuated from Smolenka village, where the fire destroyed 145 houses, and from Karpovka village and the towns of Lesnoy and Gorny.

'There is a military unit in one of the towns. The authorities have assured us though that there is no ammunition and no threat to the lives and health of local residents.'

Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region

Almost simultaneously, the wall of fire arrived at the Dobrotny neighbourhood where, despite the best efforts of firefighters, it burned several buildings. Pictures: Alyona Snitkova, Alexandra Orlova

A few kilometres from Smolenka, a three-year-old girl was killed in a settlement of summer houses. A man tried to rescue her from the fire and tried to escape by car but lost control and crashed into a tree, with the car catching fire on impact. 

Near Chita the blaze crept close to several villages, and between Smolenka and Dobrotny it crossed the road with wind gusts that reached more than 20 metres per second. Elvira Yumakeeva, a local resident, said: 'The fire started and the men who were there helped to put it out, then the electricity was cut down and we had  no more water to extinguish the fire.'

Almost simultaneously, the wall of fire arrived at the Dobrotny neighbourhood where, despite the best efforts of firefighters, it burned several buildings. Tragedy was avoided, however, as all residents were evacuated.

In the village of Kazanovo 18 families lost their houses, and eyewitnesses said the fire was almost impossible to stop. Irina Kozyreva said: 'We are now left with nothing at all. We managed to get only documents and our child, then all flashed, and it was impossible to get anything.'

Officials said that 253 paratroopers are among the 1,850 people trying to extinguish the blaze, with 108 fire engines involved.

The Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday that the fire has spread to Inner Mongolia but Russian officials have so far not been able to confirm this.

Comments (2)

Terrible no air support, no drops of flame retardant, no professional assistance in fire suppression strategy. Where are those who could assist?
Nina, California, USA
21/04/2015 23:48
2
2
My prayers are with all those affected...please God the fires will soon extinguish. One death...is one too many. PS. So brave, the "Firemen".
Jaker, Dundalk
16/04/2015 08:23
15
2
1

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