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Fire sweeps through Siberian forests

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) April 23, 2008
Russian fire services were on Wednesday battling blazes across Siberia blamed on an exceptionally mild winter and illegal logging.

The emergency situations ministry said on its website that 36,000 hectares (89,000 acres) were burning in the Amur, Buryatiya, Khabarovsk, Primorsky and Jewish Autonomous provinces.

Another 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) of forest had been consumed by fire in the previous 24 hours, the ministry said.

"To extinguish the fire, 6,551 people and 1,779 firefighting vehicles, including eight aircraft, have been deployed," the ministry said.

The Interfax news agency reported the air was thick with smoke in the oil city of Tyumen.

However the fires are not threatening residential areas or hazardous facilities such as oil and gas storage sites, the ministry said.

State television said the fires were the worst for 30 years and that a lack of winter snow had left the ground unusually dry.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said it was no coincidence that fires were taking place in areas rich in precious timber. Some blazes were intentionally set by illegal loggers, he said.

In remarks on national television Shoigu berated his staff for ineffective use of budget resources, saying "no one pays attention to how this money is spent."

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World's Oldest Living Tree Discovered In Sweden
Dalarna, Sweden (SPX) Apr 18, 2008
The world's oldest recorded tree is a 9,550 year old spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden. The spruce tree has shown to be a tenacious survivor that has endured by growing between erect trees and smaller bushes in pace with the dramatic climate changes over time. For many years the spruce tree has been regarded as a relative newcomer in the Swedish mountain region.

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