Russia announces plans to strengthen firefighting efforts

Russia announces plans to strengthen firefighting efforts

Russia is planning to step up its fight against forest and peat fires that have hit the country, media reports said Friday, dpa reported

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he intends by Monday to submit a plan for upgrading firefighting equipment and better fire prevention, the government-run paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta said. Putin reportedly said more firefighting planes and guarding more dangerous installations would be involved.

There has been growing criticism of the authorities for not doing enough to combat the fires which have been burning for weeks.

The report said the Russian leadership continues to view the situation as "catastrophic."The capital Moscow was on Friday again swathed in smoke from peat fires in the surrounding region. New fires have been starting because of the ongoing drought and temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius, with an improvement in the situation not yet in sight, the Russian media reported. President Dmitry Medvedev said the presidential administration would be more involved in dealing with the crisis. "The need is really great. That's why everyone should work," Medvedev said. The republic of Dagestan in Russia's Caucasus region has also been affected by the fires. Fires destroyed almost 60 houses in a village.Since the fires started 50 people have died nationwide, hundreds have been injured and thousands have fled the flames. Hundreds of houses have been destroyed across the country. Aid organisations and observers said they believe that official statements have understated the number of victims and the amount of damage.

Media reports have catalogued the enormous scale of the damage, with lost harvests worth 1 billion euros (1.32 billion dollars) and thousands of hectares of forest destroyed.

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