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.
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.
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.
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.
A few years ago only 30 were living in the wild, but now there is a realistic chance to avoid extinction.
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