Wednesday, 31 July 2019

State of Emergency declared in Siberia


Russia: Flooding closes federal highway in Siberia 


Fire and flood apocalypse with wildfires raging and dire threat to Baikal, world’s deepest lake



Almost 3 million hectares on fire, including Arctic, with fumes having hit area larger than European Union.

Fire and flood apocalypse hit Siberia and Russian Far East. 
Siberian Times,
29 July, 2019

A series of natural disasters are hitting Siberia, with the latest a dire threat from severe flooding to Baikal - the oldest and deepest lake in the worth, containing 20% of the planet’s unfrozen freshwater. 

The alert concerns flooding in Baikalsk - where evacuation has begun - and 
concerns that toxic mudflows can dump poisonous sludge from a former pulp and paper mill into the lake’s pristine maters. 


Pools of liquid sludge containing lignin poses a huge threat to the life in Baikal with warnings of an ‘ecological catastrophe’.


We can only pray now,” said one campaigner pointing to a risk of a dam burst on the Solzana River where a bride had been swept away already. 

Baikalsk flooded

Water comes closer to Trans-Siberian railway

Baikalsk flooded

Bridge leading to BPPM collapsed

Bridge leading to BPPM collapsed

stones blocked the motorway
The alert concerns flooding in Baikalsk. Water comes close to the Trans-Siberian 
Railway, some districts of the town are already flooded, bridge across river Solzana 
which leads to Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill collapsed. 

While Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, a Soviet-era production facility seen as an
ecological threat to the lake, is now closed, the risk of pollution from untreated waste storages at the site is acute, say reports.

The last devastating Baikal mudflow was in July 1971 which washed 20 kilometres of the Trans-Siberian Railway into the lake and destroyed several sections of the 
road from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude.

The railway could again be threatened

Elsewhere, some 2,000 have been evacuated in major flooding in Amur region in 
the Russian Far East.

There are fears of a repeat of the massive destruction of 2013.

Stranded pets have been rescued with 17 villages hit and 600 houses 
underwater.

Baikask mudflow of 1971

Baikask mudflow of 1971

Baikask mudflow of 1971

Baikask mudflow of 1971

Baikask mudflow of 1971
The last devastating Baikal mudflow was in July 1971 which washed 20 
kilometres of the Trans-Siberian Railway into the lake and destroyed several sections of the road from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude.

Some 3,000 kilometres east, the settlement of Tulun has faced its second massive evacuation in a month from flooding - while also suffering from wildfire smoke.
The Iya River is expected to use up to 10 metres above its normal level.

President Vladimir Putin has twice visited this area in Irkutsk region after the first wave of flooding.

With wildfires, almost 3 million hectares are now burning in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Smoke pollution has eased in Kemerovo, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, and Altai regions - but is forecast to return with a change of wind direction.

Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires in Yakutia
Wildfires raging in Yakutia.
Out-of-control infernos are destroying permafrost by burning the tundra both north  and south of the Arctic Circle.

Elsewhere centuries-old boreal forests of cedar, pine and larch - known as the  lungs of the Northern Hemisphere - are turning to ashes. 

Concern in rising over health risks with locals complaining they are living in a “gas chamber”, while wild animals are “fried alive”.

Worst hit is Yakutia where 1.8 million hectares are now ablaze. 


Here the tundra is aflame on both sides on both sides of the Arctic Circle. 
Mir mine in normal weather

Mir mine in smoke
Famous Mir mine in thew city of Mirny, Yakutia, in normal weather and covered witrh the smoke. 
In Krasnoyarsk, just short of one million hectares are on fire. 
Here, an Emergencies Ministry pilot said that he has been waiting to fly his water-spraying plane on burning forests but no order was given. 
'Every day I and the whole team are on duty. There are four aircraft,' he revealed. 
'Since the beginning of the fires, not a single specialised Be-200 has been lifted into the air. 
'Yet all around everything is burning and in the smoke.'
Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region
Some 2,000 have been evacuated in major flooding in Amur region in the Russian Far East. Pictures: Amurskaya Pravda, @tim0n050
Like many locals he attacked the authorities for turning a blind eye to fires in remote locations where few live.


They say it is expensive to extinguish and if part of the forest burns down - it is not scary.,’ he said. 'I think this is absurd.


The forest burns and does not stop - the fire spreads in dry and windy weather.


Of course, now, probably it will be expensive to extinguish everything that burns.


But why was there no order to fly out earlier, when the fire had just begun to spread. Everything was under control then?


'I have been living in the North for a long time - there have been fires before, but I have not seen one like this year.



Yes, the fire is far from people, for example, in Vanavara, but there is such smoke there! And no-one thinks about the people who are there.’
Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region

Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region

Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region

Smoke in Ust-Ilimsk

Ust-Kut
More than 100 settlements in Irkutsk region are covered with the smoke too. Piuctured: Kirensk, Ust-Ilimsk, Ust-Kut towns.
Postings from people hit by fires have been dramatic.


Our children are suffocating,’ one woman posted.


We are right next to the epicentres of wildfires, and we struggle to breathe,’ complained mother Marina in Evenkia, in the north of Krasnoyarsk region, one of the worst-hit.


Olga from Tura, in the same region, said: ‘We see bears coming out of the taiga one after the other, deer, too, and smaller animals - but mainly bears.


Planes stopped coming because they can’t land in thick smog.


People walk around the village in masks but they are no real help as even with a mask on it hurts to breathe.'


More than 1,500 km further west, Valeria Glukhova from the city of Omsk, said: ‘I  was at a bus stop and I felt like I was locked inside a gas chamber. 

Every time I inhaled the air burnt my lungs. I returned home with awful headache  and soon started vomiting.

My husband called an ambulance. 

My head is aching, my throat is hurting, my eyes are itchy. 

I had to walk for about ten minutes, and now hair smells of smoke so badly, as if I  was sitting all night long by a campfire. 


I saw many teenagers and children wearing medical masks, but I am pretty sure  they are not enough, you literally need a gas mask.’

Vanavara

Vanavara

Vanavara

Vanavara
Vanavara settlement is covered with the smoke, but the head of the village denies any threat to people's health.
In badly-hit Vanavara locals have posted pictures which have been disputed by local administration chief Alexander Zarubin who accused them in exaggeration, using photoshop or filters, which they deny. 

In this settlement a child was shown wearing a mask because of the pollution.

Locals accuse Zarubin of talking ‘nonsense’.

A senior regional official denied that the situation was as serious as resdients and  the media had claimed. 'This is a common natural phenomenon, it is meaningless to fight with this, and sometimes it can be even harmful. If we have a snowstorm in winter 

in cold weather, no one comes up with the idea to drown icebergs so that we have  a warmer weather.’ said Krasnoyarsk governor Alexander Uss.

UPDATE

Today Russia declared a state of emergency over wildfires in Krasnoyarsk and  Irkutsk regions and parts of Sakha (Yakutia) and Buryatia republics.

Talking to Siberian Times, an emergency pilot in Krasnoyarski Krai said he had 

spent days waiting to fly his firefighting plane, but received no order to do so.



"Every day the whole team and I are on duty. There are four aircraft," he said in 
an article published on Monday.


"Since the beginning of the fires, not a single specialized [plane] has been lifted into the air."


"They say it is expensive to extinguish and if part of the forest burns down — it is 
not scary," the unnamed pilot said.


Greenpeace steps in


Separately, the region's officials said that cost of the firefighting effort is 
sometimes "ten times larger than the possible damage" cause by the fire.


But the pilot slammed the calculation as "absurd."


"Of course, now, probably it will be expensive to extinguish everything that burns," he said.


"But why was there no order to fly out earlier, when the fire had just begun to 
spread?"


The Russian charter of Greenpeace had launched a petition to force the 
government to move against wildfires in Siberia, which was signed by some 
245,000 by Tuesday evening.


The wildfires "have long stopped being a local problem" and have "transformed 
into an ecological disaster with consequences for the entire country," Greenpeace said.


Greenpeace expert Grigory Kuksin said the soot and ashes accelerate the 
melting of the Arctic ice and permafrost, which in turns releases even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.


"It is comparable to the emissions of major cities," he told the AFP news agency. 
"The more fires affect the climate, the more conditions are created for new 
dangerous fires."


The group said almost 12 million hectares have already burned this year, 
destroying forests that absorb carbon dioxide.


Siberia was almost 10 degrees Celsius (18 Fahrenheit) warmer than the 
ong-term average in June, according to World Meteorological Organization.


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