Russia Evacuates Two Siberian Villages Due to Wildfires

An airview of the Byas-Kuel village after a wild fire, in Russia Far East, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. A fire engulfed dozens of houses in the village of Byas-Kuel, and all village residents were evacuated, according to the local task force dealing with the emergency. Wildfires in Russia's vast Siberia region are endangering a dozen villages and prompted evacuations and other emergency precautions. Officials said 93 active forest fires burned across 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres) of Sakha-Yakutia in northeastern Siberia. (NewsYkt via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian authorities started to evacuate two villages in a vast region of Siberia where 155 active forest fires burned Sunday.

A dozen villages in northeastern Siberia’s Sakha-Yakutia republic were threatened by the fires, according to the regional task force dealing with the emergency. Local authorities were moving the residents of two villages, Kalvitsa and Kharyyalakh, to other inhabited areas as crews totaling 3,600 people worked to contain about half of the blazes.

On Saturday, flames destroyed 31 houses and eight maintenance buildings in another village, Byas-Kuel, and about 400 residents were evacuated, local officials said.

Yakutia governor Aysen Nikolayev ordered officials to clear fire trails around the endangered settlements of dead wood and fallen trees. Yakutia’s government website had stated earlier that Nikolayev had a deforestation of areas around the endangered villages, but his spokespeople said it was a mistake and there has been no such order.

In recent years, Russia has recorded high temperatures that many scientists regard as a result of climate change. The hot weather coupled with the neglect of fire safety rules has caused a growing number of fires.

Experts also blame the worsening fire situation on a 2007 decision to disband a federal aviation network that spotted and combatted wildfires. The network’s assets were transferred to regional authorities, a much-criticized move that led to the fire-spotting force’s rapid decline.

The forests that cover huge areas of Russia make identifying new fires a challenge.

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