Russian official reports headway in containing forest fires
The number and extent of forest fires in Russia's central European provinces appeared to be abating for the first time in days, a senior government official said Thursday dpa reported
Vladimir Stepanov, head of the national crisis centre, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the number of fires and the area of land burning had fallen in the past 24 hours.
Fires in forested regions of Russia's Bryansk province, a region hit by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power accident, have caused no increased radiation in the environment, and blazes in contaminated areas will be extinguished in a day, Stepanov said.
Across Russia, about 560 more fires in forests and peat land were burning on Thursday, covering a total area of some 80,000 hectares - 10,000 hectares less than on Wednesday, he said.
About 60 of the blazes had been designated "large fires" requiring extra effort to control.
The situation was particularly tense in Russia's central Ural region, where houses were being evacuated, Stepanov said.
A village in Nizhny Novgorod, some 400 kilometres east of Moscow, was on fire Thursday, but no injuries were reported.
The Russian capital Moscow, clouded for most of the last week by thick smog from nearby forest fires, was breathing easier on Thursday, with much of the smog dissipated and the number of fires near the capital a third lower than on Wednesday.
Emergency response and military units began flooding peat bogs around Moscow on Thursday, in an attempt to block the spread of fires in outlying rural districts to built-up regions.
But weather predictions for west Russia remained pessimistic, with meteorologists warning of continued hot and dry conditions, with no rain in sight