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Fire and flood apocalypse with wildfires raging and dire threat to Baikal, world’s deepest lake

By The Siberian Times reporter
29 July 2019

Almost 3 million hectares on fire, including Arctic, with fumes having hit area larger than European Union.

Fire and flood apocalypse hit Siberia and Russian Far East. 

A series of natural disasters are hitting Siberia, with the latest a dire threat from severe flooding to Baikal - the oldest and deepest lake in the worth, containing 20% of the planet’s unfrozen freshwater. 

The alert concerns flooding in Baikalsk - where evacuation has begun - and concerns that toxic mudflows can dump poisonous sludge from a former pulp and paper mill into the lake’s pristine maters. 

Pools of liquid sludge containing lignin poses a huge threat to the life in Baikal with warnings of an ‘ecological catastrophe’.

‘We can only pray now,” said one campaigner pointing to a risk of a dam burst on the Solzana River where a bride had been swept away already. 

Baikalsk flooded


Water comes closer to Trans-Siberian railway


Baikalsk flooded


Bridge leading to BPPM collapsed


Bridge leading to BPPM collapsed


stones blocked the motorway

The alert concerns flooding in Baikalsk. Water comes close to the Trans-Siberian Railway, some districts of the town are already flooded, bridge across river Solzana which leads to Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill collapsed. 

While Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, a Soviet-era production facility seen as an ecological threat to the lake,  is now closed, the risk of pollution from untreated waste storages at the site is acute, say reports. 

The last devastating Baikal mudflow was in July 1971 which washed 20 kilometres of the Trans-Siberian Railway into the lake and destroyed several sections of the road from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude.

The railway could again be threatened.

Elsewhere, some 2,000 have been evacuated in major flooding in Amur region in the Russian Far East. 

There are fears of a repeat of the massive destruction of 2013. 

Stranded pets have been rescued with 17 villages hit and 600 houses underwater. 

Baikask mudflow of 1971


Baikask mudflow of 1971


Baikask mudflow of 1971


Baikask mudflow of 1971


Baikask mudflow of 1971

The last devastating Baikal mudflow was in July 1971 which washed 20 kilometres of the Trans-Siberian Railway into the lake and destroyed several sections of the road from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude.

Some 3,000 kilometres east, the settlement of Tulun has faced its second massive evacuation in a month from flooding - while also suffering from wildfire smoke. 

The Iya River is expected to use up to 10 metres above its normal level.

President Vladimir Putin has twice visited this area in Irkutsk region after the first wave of flooding.

With wildfires, almost 3 million hectares are now burning in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Smoke pollution has eased in Kemerovo, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, and Altai regions - but is forecast to return with a change of wind direction.

Wildfires in Yakutia


Wildfires in Yakutia


Wildfires in Yakutia


Wildfires in Yakutia


Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires raging in Yakutia.

Out-of-control infernos are destroying permafrost by burning the tundra both north and south of the Arctic Circle.

Elsewhere centuries-old boreal forests of cedar, pine and larch - known as the  lungs of the Northern Hemisphere - are turning to ashes. 

Concern in rising over health risks with locals complaining they are living in a “gas chamber”, while wild animals are “fried alive”.

Worst hit is Yakutia where 1.8 million hectares are now ablaze. 

Here the tundra is aflame on both sides on both sides of the Arctic Circle. 

Mir mine in normal weather


Mir mine in smoke

Famous Mir mine in thew city of Mirny, Yakutia, in normal weather and covered witrh the smoke. 

In Krasnoyarsk, just short of one million hectares are on fire. 

Here, an Emergencies Ministry pilot said that he has been waiting to fly his water-spraying plane on burning forests but no order was given. 

'Every day I and the whole team are on duty. There are four aircraft,' he revealed. 

'Since the beginning of the fires, not a single specialised Be-200 has been lifted into the air. 

'Yet all around everything is burning and in the smoke.'

Flood in Amur region


Flood in Amur region


Flood in Amur region


Flood in Amur region


Flood in Amur region


Flood in Amur region


Flood in Amur region


Flood in Amur region

Some 2,000 have been evacuated in major flooding in Amur region in the Russian Far East. Pictures: Amurskaya Pravda, @tim0n050

Like many locals he attacked the authorities for turning a blind eye to fires in remote locations where few live. 

‘They say it is expensive to extinguish and if part of the forest burns down - it is not scary.,’ he said. 'I think this is absurd. 

‘The forest burns and does not stop - the fire spreads in dry and windy weather. 

‘Of course, now, probably it will be expensive to extinguish everything that burns. 

‘But why was there no order to fly out earlier, when the fire had just begun to spread. Everything was under control then?

'I have been living in the North for a long time - there have been fires before, but I have not seen one like this year. 

‘Yes, the fire is far from people, for example, in Vanavara, but there is such smoke there! And no-one thinks about the people who are there.’

Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region


Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region


Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region


Smoke in Ust-Ilimsk


Ust-Kut

More than 100 settlements in Irkutsk region are covered with the smoke too. Piuctured: Kirensk, Ust-Ilimsk, Ust-Kut towns.

Postings from people hit by fires have been dramatic. 

‘Our children are suffocating,’ one woman posted.

‘We are right next to the epicentres of wildfires, and we struggle to breathe,’ complained mother Marina in Evenkia, in the north of Krasnoyarsk region, one of the worst-hit. 

Olga from Tura, in the same region, said: ‘We see bears coming out of the taiga one after the other, deer, too, and smaller animals - but mainly bears. 

‘Planes stopped coming because they can’t land in thick smog. 

‘People walk around the village in masks but they are no real help as even with a mask on it hurts to breathe.' 

More than 1,500 km further west, Valeria Glukhova from the city of Omsk, said: ‘I was at a bus stop and I felt like I was locked inside a gas chamber. 

‘Every time I inhaled the air burnt my lungs. I returned home with awful headache and soon started vomiting.

‘My husband called an ambulance. 

‘My head is aching, my throat is hurting, my eyes are itchy. 

‘I had to walk for about ten minutes, and now hair smells of smoke so badly, as if I was sitting all night long by a campfire. 

‘I saw many teenagers and children wearing medical masks, but I am pretty sure they are not enough, you literally need a gas mask.’

Vanavara


Vanavara


Vanavara


Vanavara

Vanavara settlement is covered with the smoke, but the head of the village denies any threat to people's health.

In badly-hit Vanavara locals have posted pictures which have been disputed by local administration chief Alexander Zarubin who accused them in exaggeration, using photoshop or filters, which they deny. 

In this settlement a child was shown wearing a mask because of the pollution.

Locals accuse Zarubin of talking ‘nonsense’.

A senior regional official denied that the situation was as serious as resdients and the media had claimed. 'This is a common natural phenomenon, it is meaningless to fight with this, and sometimes it can be even harmful. If we have a snowstorm in winter in cold weather, no one comes up with the idea to drown icebergs so that we have a warmer weather.’ said Krasnoyarsk governor Alexander Uss.

UPDATE

Today Russia declared a state of emergency over wildfires in Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions and parts of Sakha (Yakutia) and Buryatia republics.

Comments (10)

Some of the pictures of the smoked out cities look like Edmonton this time last year....it was awful. We didn't see the sky for weeks and temperatures dropped up to 10 C at times due to the smoke cover. Now this year nothing but rain rain rain all the time. Hope you guys get some relief and better luck over there soon.
Harley, Edmonton, Canada
07/08/2019 21:39
1
0
We went through the firestorm of 2003 when government trying to save money caused a massive fire-dragon to awaken and 50,000 people almost had to be evacuated. We have had 2 more fire-storms since then and in 2017 and 2018 there were so many fires around us that Kelowna had the worst air-quality on the planet, worse then Beijing and worse then Mumbai. I worked 5 years in the grain elevator business in northern BC. it was so dusty I got used to wearing dust masks all the time. It saved my lungs. When the smoke is too thick, we wear N95 masks for particulate matter, we have big fans going all night long and we breath slowly through our nose and do not gulp air. It is terrible, officials are useless but we can still help each other. The N95 particulate masks really help.
Robert Dixon, Kelowna, BC Canada
06/08/2019 02:19
1
0
Not hearing too much about this in the news in the U.S. Seems like it should be a pretty big story. Our weather is all over the place, but definitely getting warmer.
BJ JOhnson, United States
03/08/2019 00:14
2
0
Our "leaders" have to wake up to their masters' plans of destruction and stop taking the false riches and look instead into the eyes of their children and see the reflection of their children waiting to be born. They are destroying our world they want us all gone. Genocide by weaponised weather flows onto crop destruction. GEORGIA GUIDESTONES agenda. UNITED MANKIND WILL RISE UP. #wedonotconsent We are all connected do not react to the mainstream. Stop the flow of cash to the corporations. Grow your own food and love one another.
Sharktooth, New Zealand
02/08/2019 16:12
2
0
This front page hasn't changed since i discovered it. Still in business?
James, Carlsbad California
31/07/2019 22:23
2
2
Martin taylor, the mainstream media is only interested when they can show Putin shirtless. or when he is selling rockets to Turkey or Iran or Irak or any other -enemy of the West - government. as for the rest, how many do even know that Siberia is part of Russia?
MORAK Benedikjt, Moscow
31/07/2019 10:29
4
1
The global hydrological cycle has been severely disrupted. Increasing temperatures are drying out forest, soils, peat, bogs, etc., leading to vastly increased size and severity of fires. National leaders are pretending they can ignore this while the world increasingly burns, but it's obvious that they cannot. The suffering will be global, and the costs will be in the trillions and trillions for property damage, destroyed lives, homes, businesses, farms, forests. Runaway climate change is already here and it will only keep getting worse and worse. Excessive wet-bulb temperatures have already killed thousands, in time, it will be millions. Global food crops will collapse leading to massive levels of starvation and civilization as we know it will end forever. We cannot live in a uninhabitable world where everything either dies from heat, drought, fire, flood or extreme weather events. Nor can anything else.
JR, USA
31/07/2019 07:53
5
22
its a bleak situation, unfortunately, and people of Siberia are not alone in these painful days. There has always been "Others" who care about any human being in trouble and pain. Moreover, Climate Change has already killed millions and forced many more into despair ... And will come after us all for sure. we have to pay the price for following the rule of power and profit, ignoring plight of others , sink in our ego and let it go ! ...
Javad, Stockholm/Sweden
30/07/2019 23:17
9
22
I was travelling through this region on the Trans Siberian Railway last month. The land is vast and people are so remote, it is awful to see it covered in thick smoke. The real danger is the pristine waters of lake Baikal becoming poisoned. Why are we not seeing this in the mainstream media channels???
Martin Taylor, United Kingdom
30/07/2019 19:44
15
0
I think we’re all going down!
Deborah burns, United States
30/07/2019 13:55
7
2
1

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