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'Lake Baikal, where the ice queen cast her spell'
Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

Satellite images show wildfires hugging Lake Baikal as army use drones to monitor 2013 blazes

By The Siberian Times reporter
11 May 2013

Recent reports showed 89 wildfires in Siberia and 25 in the Russian Far East as a new season of damage to forests gets underway.

Images from the Aqua satellite showed smoke from wildfires in southern Siberia with the republics of Buryatia and Tyva hit by flames. Picture: Aqua/Modis

Dry and hot as it is in some regions, in others wintery snow is back, wreaking havoc, as Siberia experiences ice and fire at the same time. 

Images from the Aqua satellite showed smoke from wildfires in southern Siberia with the republics of Buryatia and Tyva hit by flames. 

Fires were also reported in the Altai, Krasnoyarsk and Trans-Baikal regions. More than 2,000 fire-fighters, 415 units of equipment, and 16 aircraft were deployed on Siberia's wildfires.

'The blazes have been caused by careless handling of fire by the local population and agricultural burning,' said the regional forestry department.

Wildfire alerts have been issued for all regions of the Siberian Federal District, except Novosibirsk, as the threat grows. 

In the Far East, firefighters brought 15 out of 29 blazes under control, but seven were still burning in the Republic of Sakha, also known as Yakutia, and Amur was also hit. The firefighting effort involved 474 people, 40 items of equipment and seven aircraft, including four helicopters.

The fires come soon after the snow melt across eastern Russia and several months before the peak summer heat makes many regions exceptionally vulnerable. In the summer of 2010, devastating wildfires swept across Russia, killing more than 50 people, destroying thousands of houses, 2.6 million hectares of woods and a quarter of the country's grain harvest.

But Greenpeace and other groups have claimed that officials are underestimating the fire damage in the years since 2010. 

wildfires 2013 Siberia


wildfires 2013 Siberia

Dry and hot as it is in some regions, in others wintery snow is back, wreaking havoc, as Siberia experiences ice and fire at the same time. Pictures: Alexander Lesnyanskiy

The Defence Ministry is ready to assign army reconnaissance drones to monitor wildfires, said Russian Army Commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Chirkin.

'We plan to assign drones of reconnaissance units on fire and flood monitoring missions,' he said.

'There are 32 potentially hazardous facilities of the Russian Defence Ministry in these regions, within the zone of responsibility of the Eastern Military District. The most dangerous of them are four sites in the Amur territorial garrison and one in the Buryat territorial garrison.'

But it is not all hot. In Altai region, 25 settlements were left without electricity due to gales and snow. 

'Due to the wet snow on the wires and the fallen trees, electricity lines broke in four regions,' said the Emergencies Ministry.

On May 10, a gale cut off electricity supplies to 72 settlements, where about 23,000 live.

As Itar-Tass noted: 'Winter has returned to the Altai region - it began snowing there. In some parts the green grass is covered by several centimetres of snow. In the Romanov region the white layer is seven centimetres thick.

'The unusual natural event attracts many people to the streets where they make pictures of the rare ~summer-winter~ scenes. The drivers, who have already changed their tyres for the summer ones, prefer not to drive today'.

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