Russian fires more destructive than last year: ministry

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Wildfires in Russia in 2011 are three times more extensive than during the same period last year when the country was scorched by its worst summer blazes of the modern era, a ministry said Tuesday.

Fires in Russia have destroyed some 618,000 hectares so far this year, an area much greater than the 215,000 hectares destroyed last year, with the increases especially impacting Siberia, the emergency ministry said.

On Tuesday fires ravaged the Krasnoyarsk region, leaving about 20,000 people without electricity in the town Kodinsk and the surrounding areas, which include the construction site of the Boguchany dam, one of the country's largest infrastructure projects.

The district has declared a state of emergency, the regional emergency ministry department said.

Russia endured the worst heatwave in its recorded history last year.

A record drought wiped out the harvest and wildfires spread out of control, killing dozens, burning down thousands of houses and threatening military and nuclear installations.

The 2010 fires left Moscow shrouded in smoke for several weeks, forcing people to leave the capital in droves and causing mortality rates in the city to double.

In April, President Dmitry Medvedev warned Russian officials they would be sent to personally douse the blazes if they failed to prevent fires this year.

The European part of Russia, including Moscow, remains largely unaffected so far.

© 2011 AFP

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