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'Today Siberia is a vast region of bustling metropolises and magnificent landscapes'
A. J. Haywood

Thick smoke from wildfires closed one of Siberia's major airports on Saturday

15 July 2012

Yakutsk, currently hosting the Children of Asia international sports games was forced to halt arrivals and departures until 11pm.

Newly-opened passenger terminal, Yakutsk airport. Picture: Yakutsk airport

'The city of Yakutsk is wreathed in smoke which is stinging the eyes of local residents,' reported news agency RIA Novosti.

Latest reports said Yakutia, also known as Sakha, the largest republic in Russia, had 16 wildfires burning over some 3,600 hectares. 

'Yakutsk airport was closed until 11:00 p.m. local time (5:00 p.m. Moscow time) due to thick smog', he said.

Last week it was revealed that smoke from Siberian fires had reached the west coasts of Canada and the United States, producing exceptional sunsets. 

The Yakutsk smoke was a blow to organisers of the children's games. 

Some 3,000 young athletes from 26 countries are taking part in the Children of Asia Games, a major symbol of the city.

Within Russia, participants have come from as far afield as Moscow,  Tatarstan, Bashkiria,  the Urals, as well as other regions in Siberia.

The games were first held in 1996 on the initiative of Mikhail Nikolayev, the first head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), and they were dedicated to the centenary of the Olympic movement.

Competitions are being held in 20 sports in the cities of Yakutsk, Mirny, and Neryungri between July 5 and 16. 

It was announced several days ago that the 2016 games will also be held in Yakutsk. 

President Yegor Borisov said the games were a way to improve the image of the city. 

'It is the oldest city in Russia's northeast that until recently fully comprised wooden buildings.' he said. 

'But today we want to turn it into one of the most modern cities on the territory of Asia.'

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