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Desperate villagers fight advancing flames near Moscow

Baltic states help Russia cope with deadly fires
Riga (AFP) Aug 10, 2010 - Baltic trio Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia said Tuesday they would help their Soviet-era master Russia cope with the devastation wreaked by forest fires amid the worst heatwave in a millennium. The governments of all three small 2004 EU states that broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 have offered Moscow their assistance, after Russia's envoys to Riga and Vilnius officially requested help on Monday. "We sent out a team of 12 firefighters and fire trucks equipped with a 10-day food supply and tents," Inese Veisa, spokeswoman for Latvia's State Fire and Rescue Service told AFP Tuesday. The team was headed to the Moscow vicinity, she said.

"Estonia has offered Russia help within its means for putting out the fires and Russia has accepted the assistance," said Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. Tallinn said it will send pumps, 10 kilometres (six miles) of hoses and fittings to facilitate water to douse the fires. Fire brigade officials in Lithuania said Tuesday they were working to meet Russia's requests, including for pumps, respiratory gear and mobile power generators. Latvia also said Tuesday its diplomats suffering from the heatwave in Russia could come home and offered to extend visas for Russian tourists currently visiting Latvia.

Russian officials have said the daily mortality rate in Moscow has doubled and morgues are overflowing amid the worst heatwave in Russia's thousand-year history that has sparked massive forest fires. A thick acrid smog from the peat and forest fires burning in the countryside around 100 kilometres (60 miles) outside the city has choked Moscow for days and has been seeping into apartments, offices and even underground into the metro forcing an exodus from the capital. Emergency services are battling to put out over 170,000 hectares of wildfires in central Russia and the Moscow region, with fires raging dangerously close to a nuclear reprocessing site.
by Staff Writers
Zdorovie, Russia (AFP) Aug 11, 2010
Armed with just spades and sand from a nearby river, villagers in Zdorovie near Moscow joined firefighters to save their homes from flames engulfing an adjoining forest.

Zdorovie, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Moscow, had been spared from wildfires that enveloped western Russia for two weeks, but on Tuesday the first flames and smoke rose from the neighbouring woods.

The fire surged, spurred by a six-week heatwave that had dried grass and soil, and reached the lower branches of trees to the villagers' horror.

Firefighters, helped by water bombing helicopters and local volunteers, battled to beat back the flames before they crossed the road separating the village from the forest.

"I look there to see if I have to leave or not," Lyubov Kharlamova, 62, said, clutching a religious icon in one hand.

"I pray that all this ends," because "if the fire crosses the road, our houses are doomed."

Spades in hand, Zdorovie locals threw soil and sand as firefighters wielding hoses ridden with holes sprayed water pumped from the local river.

"I am no firefighter but a local, and I help so that my house does not burn," said a man who gave his name as Vadim, stripped to the waist due to searing heat.

Vladimir Solovyov, an emergency ministry employee who also owns a dacha in the village, rushed to help his neighbours.

"I am here as a civilian to help because my house is here. I do not fear so much for it, if it burns, we will restore it, but my family, my children, and other people also live here," he said.

"Luckily we have a river," the 30-year-old added.

Forest fires had already ravaged many villages, two military bases near Moscow and threaten several nuclear installations, as well as killing at least 54 people according to preliminary reports.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday authorities said they were making progress in fighting fires that still covered 174,035 hectares of land.

Russia's emergencies ministry said that over the past 24 hours, 247 new fires had appeared, more than the 239 had been put out, and 557 fires were still raging across the affected region.

The authorities have come under pressure to explain the magnitude of effects of the heatwave, which meteorologists have said is the worst in the 1,000 years of recorded history in Russia.

The heatwave has had a huge impact on all areas of Russian society and economists have warned the record temperatures could have cost the country up to 15 billion dollars and undercut a modest economic revival.

Worst hit has been agriculture, which has seen 10 million hectares of land destroyed.

earlier related report
Portuguese firefighter killed after being encircled by blaze
Lisbon (AFP) Aug 10, 2010 - A woman volunteer firefighter died Tuesday in northern Portugal after being encircled by the blaze she was fighting, the rescue services said.

A colleague was seriously injured in the blaze in the Gondomar region, the rescue services added.

The woman was the second firefighter to die in Portugal within two days, after a fireman was killed on Monday when a truck transporting him rolled over.

Portugal has been hit by a wave of forest fires since the end of July that have burned some 18,000 hectares (44,500 acres) of forests, mostly in the north and the centre of the country.

Earlier Tuesday the Portuguese rescue services said firefighters were battling just one major wildfire after containing two others.

Interior Minister Rui Pereira called on Portuguese to show extra caution as "more than 90 percent of forest fires are caused by humans."

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Second Russian nuclear facility threatened by fires
Moscow (AFP) Aug 8, 2010
Russia's emergency response minister ordered firefighters to redouble their efforts Sunday to put out a wildfire threatening one of the country's nuclear research facilities in the Urals. "As for Snezhinsk, I recommend you work through the night," Sergei Shoigu said during a meeting with officials from regions hit by the blazes. Snezhinsk, located some 1,500 kilometres (925 miles) east o ... read more

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