July 30, 2010

Forest fire in Russia kills 20

At least 20 people have died due to a wildfire in southern Russia that destroyed an entire people, government spokesmen said. Continue reading the printed article

Among the dead were three firefighters.

The fire has spread rapidly in recent days over 90,000 hectares (20,000 acres), after high temperatures and drought affected Russia for weeks. The fields and forests have dried up and many crops have been lost.

July was the hottest month in Russia according to the records of the last 130 years. On Thursday, the temperature in Moscow reached 37.8 degrees Celsius, setting a new record.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday visited the ruins of the village of Verkhnyaya Verey, where 341 houses were consumed by flames and two residents died. The town was one of three that were destroyed around the city of Nizhny Novgorod, fifth largest Russian city, located 475 km (300 miles) to the east of Moscow.

"Before the winter every house will be rebuilt," Putin told a group of anxious survivors, mostly women. "I promise that the town will be rebuilt."

A crying woman thanked him for his words and the promise of compensation of 200,000 rubles ($ 6,500) to each of the residents. Putin gave a kiss on the cheek.

Putin on Friday urged local government officials to increase their emergency work to stop fires.

"The situation in these areas has deteriorated," Putin said on television Thursday. "We need to take urgent steps."

He also said government representatives who were unable to stop the fires in their localities, should resign. The authorities "thoroughly investigate every official," said Putin.

Fires in Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod and other regions of Russia have destroyed more than 1,000 houses and left 2,000 homeless, according to the country's Emergencies Ministry.

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