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'If you emptied Lake Baikal, it would take every river in the world flowing into it a year to fill.'
Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

Siberia on fire

By The Siberian Times reporter
12 August 2015

Wildfires rage around Lake Baikal with 5,000-plus emergency workers deployed.

Firebreaks in forests around the lake were ineffective as flames spread through the tops of trees. Picture: Baikal ATV

Huge infernos are burning 138,500 hectares in the Siberian Federal Dictrict, with the Republic of Buryatia and Irkutsk region hit the worst, with 82,700  and 47,900 hectares on fire respectively. 

These two areas border the lake, the deepest and oldest in the world. Smoke from the fires covers the city of Ulan-Ude and the eastern coast of Baikal. Bathers were caked in ash after dipping into in its cool waters. 

Ash also washed up on the lake's beaches at the peak of the summer tourism season. NASA published pictures taken by camera MODIS. 

Wildfires in Siberia

NASA published pictures taken by camera MODIS showing that Smoke from the fires completely covered Lake Baikal. Picture: NASA

Southern Siberia now has around 146 forest fires, most of which are in the Budhist republic of Buryatia, which borders Mongolia, said the space agency

Smoke from the fires completely covered Lake Baikal, which is larger in area than the country of Belgium, and now it is almost impossible to see it from space.

One tourist described it as 'like in movies about the Apocalypse' with forests burned to cinders. Firebreaks in forests around the lake were ineffective as flames spread through the tops of trees. 

Wildfires in Siberia


Wildfires in Siberia


Wildfires in Siberia

Ash also washed up on the lake's beaches at the peak of the summer tourism season. Pictures: @ssvetlana_sergeevna, @chimitabakhaeva, Vladimir Naidanov 

Head of Federal Baikal-Angara basin management Mikhail Voronov warned of long-term ecological damage to the lake. 'Baikal's cleaning capability is dramatically low, due to a small flow of water. No spring floods on Baikal for already 19 years and it's scary,' he said. 

The lake contains 20% of the unfrozen freshwater on the planet and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other regions are suffering from wildfires too, notably the Tyva Republic, Trans-Baikal region and the Altai Republic. In the city of Chita, oficials urged residents to keep windows closed, to stay out of the open air, and use air conditioning and purification at home and work. Health experts urged Siberians to limit physical activity, alcohol and to refrain from smoking. 

Wildfires in Siberia


Wildfires in Siberia


Wildfires in Siberia


Wildfires in Siberia

One tourist described it as 'like in movies about the Apocalypse' with forests burned to cinders. Pictures: Vadim Sokolov, Baikal ATV, Vladimir Naidanov

The Federal Forestry Agency bemoaned the lack of aircraftto fight fires in Siberia and the Far East. Ivan Valetnik said there was now reduced aircraft patrols compared to the past. 

In April, at least 34 people died in southern Siberia as a results of wildfires. Hundreds of others were rendered homeless. Investigators at the time launched probes into the deadly fires to determine whether they could have been caused by negligence.

Comments (3)

And now Putin will probably promise more aircraft & to house everyone by September, empty promises as usual.
Jaker, dundalk
21/08/2015 00:00
0
1
Awful, we stayed there on holiday, camping by the Lake, near some hot springs. I hope the villages are all safe. Scary fires.
Amanda Whatley , Oxford, UK
14/08/2015 06:55
4
0
There's a bit of a pattern here - fires across Alaska, Canada, the US West, and southern Europe
Grant, Australia
13/08/2015 06:45
14
0
1

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