Russia faces worst forest fires in 30 years

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Moscow, Apr 23 (UNI) Russia is facing the worst forest fire situation in 30 years, as weather experts today predicted that fire risks may further deteriorate in next two months.

''The situation has had no precedents over the past three decades. As of April 23, the number of fires in some Russian regions and the areas they have affected exceed the many years-old statistics ten times or more, and in some parts of the Volga-Urals region, 50 times,'' the chief of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry's national centre for monitoring and forecasting, Vladislav Bolov, said at a press conference here.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu chaired the press conference.

''The low level of precipitation is one of the causes,'' Mr Bolov added.

Over 36,000 hectares of Russian forest is currently ablaze, with 900 large-scale fires continuing to rage across the Far East, Siberia and the Urals. In the past 24 hours, their number has risen by 76 and the area affected has doubled.

''The situation is heading into the worst-case scenario,'' Mr Bolov said, warning that wildfires are predicted to rage strongest in May and June.

Strong winds and a long spell of dry and warm weather are cited as the main reasons for the wildfires, but also negligence as local residents often set fire to dry grass to clear land for farming and other purposes.

Earlier this week, two people died and 325 rendered homeless by fires that started on Sunday and continued through to Monday in the Amur Region in Russia's Far East.

UNI XC SKB DB1835

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