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'The 3am stop at a remote station miles from home is a moment you will remember for the rest of your life.'
Jon Pearson (Telegraph Online)

Fire rages on as death toll from two blazes reaches 33

By Anna Liesowska
16 April 2015

As one area continues to fight blaze, communities in tragedy-hit Khakassia show that human spirit and togetherness can prevail.

Local residents near Chita have described the events of the past few days like 'an apocalypse' with smoke covering much of the area. Picture: Yegor Zakharov

Fire is still raging in part of Siberia as the death toll from this week’s two massive outbreaks rises to 33. In Khakassia, people are slowly beginning to piece together their lives after the devastating wildfire that killed at least 29 people is finally extinguished.

But for those living near the city of Chita, in Trans-Baikal, the worry continues as a separate blaze continues to burn in some areas. Four people have already died and 22 were injured in that region, and more than 830 people have lost their homes.

On Wednesday Emergency Ministry officials had claimed fires in the settlements were out and that it had affected 49,000 hectares. However, on Thursday it emerged the blaze had actually doubled in size and is now encroaching 107,000 hectares.

Local residents near Chita have described the events of the past few days like 'an apocalypse' with smoke covering much of the area. Volunteers and firefighters are continuing to battle the elements on the outskirts of villages in a bid to save both people and houses.

Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region

'We put buckets of water along the fence and when we saw the smoke, we jumped out and grabbed them, but it was in vain – there was a wall of fire.' Picture: Andrey Zinchenko, Yegor Zakharov

In Ulacha the blaze was just one kilometre from homes, although volunteers did manage to put out the flames in the village of Drovyanaya. One said: 'The fire was between the houses, right in the village and burned the grass and trees. Where it came from, I can't say.'

On April 14, volunteers fought the fire in the suburb of Chita all through the night and it was only extinguished in Vysokogorye at 4.30am.

In Ivan-Ozero, one resident told of their battle to save themselves from the inferno, and said: 'We put buckets of water along the fence and when we saw the smoke, we jumped out and grabbed them, but it was in vain – there was a wall of fire.

'We had to seize our documents and flee but my husband left a passport in his jacket. Our four-year-old son was frightened and sat down and hid his head with his hands. We barely escaped.'

Local residents have created groups on social media, where they coordinate the work of volunteers, and collect humanitarian aid. While the horror continues there, there is relief in Khakassia after the wildfire that devastated the region was finally extinguished.

Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia


Wildfires in Khakassia

In Khakassia, people are slowly beginning to piece together their lives after the devastating wildfire that killed at least 29 people is finally extinguished.' Pictures: Vkontakte, Ekaterina Chepelina

According to preliminary data the blaze destroyed 1,300 homes, leaving 6,000 people homeless, and also claimed the lives of 5,000 sheep and cattle. And as the grim task of rebuilding communities starts, some 800 people are still in hospitals across the region having required medical treatment.

Officials said the death toll has risen to 29 with three people still unaccounted for. The settlement of Shira was worst affected, with more than 420 homes burned down.

Commenting on the tragedy, facebook user Andrey Baranyuk, from St Petersburg, wrote: 'This is now just a God-forgotten village burned in the middle of taiga. According to the regional administration head, 2,300 people was affected by the fire, so nearly every fourth person was touched by it.'

Olesya Kuzminykh, who lives in the village of Kopyevo, said the wind was so strong that they could not cope with the on-rushing fire. She said: 'The fire began on the one side of the village and the entire village rushed there. Luckily the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. Only one house burned down.'

Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region


Wildfires in Trans-Baikal region

Trans-Baikal region (Zabaikalye in Russian) local residents have created groups on social media, where they coordinate the work of volunteers, and collect humanitarian aid. Picture: Vkontakte, kosmosnimki.ru, Alexey Volovikov

When the fire came close to the village, all residents, including children, rushed to extinguish it. Despite the fact that the dry land burned like grass, and it was hard to find water because of the idle water pipes, they managed to defend the village.

Olesya said: 'It's a miracle we had such people. They literally stood as a 'human shield' lined up. Actually, a lot of villages were rescued by their own residents themselves. And today, people do not lose heart, we just support each other.'

The area has been hit by looting as thieves targeted abandoned homes. According to the local police: “When the fire began to subside under the guise of kinship and friendship ties with the victims, looters collected in karts and trailers charred pipes, bicycles, radiators and other valuable things in order to pass them to the metal collection points and get money.”

Meanwhile the communities are pulling together to help those affected with paperwork, the collecting of personal items, and in making sure people have food and shelter and that cattle are safely evacuated.

Comments (2)

I'm so sorry to see this. We are all becoming victims of climate change. My deepest sympathy to the brave Siberians trying to fight these terrible fires, and save their lives and property. Here in California, we are in a severe drought. The fires will be bad, this summer, likely. Most people here, though, are not in immediate danger, although their houses are a risk. My brother's house is in the forest, in California. I hope it will be all right, this summer. People the world over need to band together an put political pressure on the politicians to take action to change our technology, reduce fossil fuel use, and fight global warming. Very sorry to see this.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa, California, U.S.A.
22/04/2015 12:14
3
0
Its is amazing to see how people help themselves, we just came out of the greatest floods in history of Kashmir. while National news channels were just doing propaganda we Kashmiris saved our selves including Thousands of Tourists, Russians like Kashmiris have allays proven to be brave and strong especially when their is need
Jamal, Srinagar, Kashmir India
18/04/2015 17:41
10
0
1

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