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Putin blames 'madmen' for wildfire as he visits tragedy-hit region

By Olga Gertcyk & Derek Lambie
22 April 2015

President meets with people affected and pledges support, new homes and financial aid to ensure Khakassia can rebuild.

The President said he wanted 2,400 new homes built for those affected by September 1, before the cold winter arrives, and he has ordered regional authorities to ensure prompt compensation is paid to people for the damage. Picture: Andrey Baranyuk

Vladimir Putin has blamed the Siberian wildfire that killed 30 people on “madmen” arsonists as he toured the devastated region to offer his support. The President arrived in Abakan on Tuesday, and visited a temporary centre for victims of the tragedy in Khakassia, hearing their stories and sharing tea with many of the families.

Condemning the people who started the blaze, he stressed that an investigation would find out whether everything that could have been done to prevent the disaster was carried out. And while it is understood the Kremlin does not see personnel change as making any difference to future fire tackling plans, Mr Putin did warn that anyone who did not do their job adequately could be prosecuted for their actions.

Preliminary estimates show that the damage from the fire on April 12 and 13 could reach as much as seven billion roubles ($136million) with 5,000 people losing their homes. During a televised question-and-answer session on April 16, Mr Putting said that between five billion and six billion roubles would be allocated from the federal budget to help.

Putin blames ‘madmen’ for wildfire as he visits tragedy-hit region


Putin blames ‘madmen’ for wildfire as he visits tragedy-hit region
Living settlement of Shira, where more than 2,000 households suffered from wildfires. Pictures: Andrey Baranyuk


The President said he wanted 2,400 new homes built for those affected by September 1, before the cold winter arrives, and he has ordered regional authorities to ensure prompt compensation is paid to people for the damage.

The temporary facility for those affected by the disaster is housed in the grounds of a hospital of the Interior Ministry. As he shared tea with people, Mr Putin said he wanted to return to the region within two months to personally ensure the rebuilding project was underway.

He said: 'I’ll surely come here once again in a month-and-a-half to two months’ time to see the progress of works'.

The President then asked people if officials had started paying out any compensation to help the victims rebuild their lives. Khakassia governor Viktor Zimin told him that a total of 1,722 repayments had been made already.

'I think we’ll pay out 90 per cent of all the compensation money by Tuesday', Mr Zimin added.

Investigations are still continuing into the root of the fire but it is clear it was caused deliberately, with strong winds helping to fan the flames. The massive blaze destroyed 1,328 homes and a total of 30 people were killed, although two people are still listed as missing.

Mr Putin’s press secretary Dmitriy Peskov said that sacking people from their posts would not resolve the issue of wildfires. He said: 'The main thing is not personnel reshuffles. As you realize, one can fight fires but it's hard to fight arson.And when it's in effect a matter of people themselves starting the fires, burning grass or, as we have seen, there are absolute madmen who set fire to woods just for the fun of it, with that sort of thing you can change all the personnel but it won't help'.

Comments (2)

A grass fire in a city park the size of one or two acres gave us a jolting reality check a short time ago. It was quickly brought under control. One cannot take in the enormity of the death and disruption to the people involved in this tragedy
Kenny, Joe, Victoria, Canada
07/07/2015 11:28
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0
Promises, Promises? Let's hope he keeps them! PS. Or will it have really been just "Tea & Sympathy"?
Jaker, Dundalk
23/04/2015 09:28
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2
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