State of emergency in Russia, as wildfires continue to burn


Authorities in Russia say they have raging wildfires under control. President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday declared a state of emergency in seven regions. Tens of thousands of emergency workers are still battling hundreds of fires, and 40 people have died.


Medvedev declared the state of emergency in Moscow and the eastern regions of Mairi El, Mordovia, Vladimir, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan. It allows authorities to call on the armed forces to prevent and put out fires, and to restrict access to areas that present a fire hazard.

"Our main task today is to help the victims return to normal life," Medvedev said.

The government has been criticised for its slow response rate to fires that started last week. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has led the disaster response, was heckled by angry victims when he visited the Nizhny Novgorod region.

"I want plans of reconstruction for every region, every district, every house," he said on Monday, throwing the responsibility to local officials. "I want a list of all the injured signed by you -- the governors.”

At least 1,875 houses have been destroyed and about 128,000 hectares of land have been engulfed in flames. But authorities have insisted the situation is under control.

"Out of 1,200 fires, 620 have been extinguished," said Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu.

He warned residents against lighting up barbecues and camp fires.

"People need to understand... all the rules if they go into the forest. Our coming week of work depends on how they spent their days off,” he said.

Forecasters predict the heatwave, which has exacerbated the fires, will continue into this week.

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