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State of emergency declared over wildfires in Irkutsk region

By The Siberian Times reporter
19 May 2014

Hundreds - including dozens of children - evacuated safely as fires destroy and threaten homes.

'It is like Silent Hill, smoke and ashes everywhere, burning bits of trees are falling down from the sky'. Picture: vk.com 

Strong winds fanned the flames with shocking descriptions from residents on social networks describing the carnage.

Oksana from Irkutsk used vk network to say: 'It is like Silent Hill, smoke and ashes everywhere, burning bits of trees are falling down from the sky.' 

Alexander sent a message warning: 'Our village Shestakovo can burn down completely. We are trapped, the taiga is on fire around our village from three sides.'

 Yulia wrote: 'I am from Zheleznogorsk-Ilimsky town, it is surrounded by wildfires, people are panicking.'

Another user Galina told the world: 'It looks horrifying. More than 70 summer houses burned to ashes, now the wind brought smoke and ashes into the city, it's impossible to breath. My eyes are watering from smoke.'

Sergey Yeroshchenko, the Governor of Irkutsk region, declaring a state of emergency, said: 'This is a preventive measure taken with a view to prohibit any activity in the woods and make sure we activate all resources to get rid of the fires and their consequences.'

The situation is getting particularly hard in Nizhneilimsky district of Irkutsk region, where more than a dozen houses were on fire. Eighty people were working on extinguishing the blaze, and all villagers evacuated. 

As the regional press service reported: 'We had to send BE-200 amphibious plane to help fight the fires. 

'Earlier more than ten units of fire equipment were sent there, along with boats and paratroopers from the air base for forest protection. The state of emergency in this area was announced on Saturday, but it got worse because of the strong wind which increases the strength of the fire and spreads it around.' 

In Dalny, where the fire was caused by agriculture burning, 'local residents were brought to the settlement of Zamorsky on a motor boat. 

'Some of them will be accommodated at a temporary accommodation centre, others will stay at their relatives,' said a duty officer. 

Winds of up to 15 metres per second led to the blaze spreading. Some 45 people assisted by six units of hardware were fighting the fire.

A voluntary fire brigade from the settlement also aided the process. An Mi-8 helicopter of the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations was sent to the scene.

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