Baltic states help Russia cope with deadly fires
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.
© 2010 AFP