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Wildfires Rage Across Russia, Engulfing Dozens Of Towns And Villages In Haze

Smoke from wildfires covers Yakustk on July 19.
Smoke from wildfires covers Yakustk on July 19.

Wildfires in 11 Russian regions have placed a haze over dozens of towns and villages amid unusually hot and dry weather.

Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said on July 21 that in the far eastern region of Yakutia, the capital, Yakutsk, as well as 107 towns and villages, were currently covered by thick smoke as 208 wildfires rage in the remote region, adding that more than 2,100 people and 297 special vehicles were involved in battling the blazes.

Aisen Nikolayev, the head of Yakutia, also known as the Republic of Sakha, said the fires were caused mainly by climate change.

In a televised interview on July 21, Nikolayev said the region faced "the driest and hottest summer since the late 19th century."

"In June, the average temperature in our republic was over 20 degrees, while usually it is over 15 in that time of the year," Nikolayev said, adding that an unusual lack of rain this year also contributed to the ongoing situation.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, a state of emergency has been declared in the western Karelia region that borders Finland.

Regional chief Artur Parfyonchikov said on social media that the state of emergency was declared because it "will allow the regional government, state agencies, and municipal authorities to avoid bureaucratic formalities when allocating resources to combat the blazes."

Regional authorities said 38 forest fires were currently active in Karelia, of which 15 are under containment. As many as 600 people have been evacuated in the region.

A state of emergency over wildfires is also in effect in the region of Chelyabinsk, as well as in nine others across the country.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax

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