State of emergency declared in Siberia over raging wildfires

Authorities in the Russia’s Far East have declared a state of emergency on Monday as summer wildfires spread amid intense heat and lightning storms.

The head of the Republic of Sakha, a region also known as Yakutia, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that more than 110 forest fires were raging across about 61,000 hectares (151,000 acres), roughly three-quarters the size of New York City.

Wildfires have become more intense in Russia in recent seasons, helped by unusually high temperatures in Siberia, driven by climate change.

According to local media, 620 personnel and 33 ground vehicles and planes were involved in extinguishing the blazes. There were no immediate threats to settlements, it said.

The population of Sakha, Russia’s largest region by land mass, is roughly one million, but its firefighting budget has tripled this year.

The 2021 fire season was Russia’s largest ever, with 18.8 million hectares (46.5 million acres) of forest destroyed, according to Greenpeace Russia, about two times the size of the island of Ireland.

Bordering on the Arctic Ocean in the north, Sakha is particularly prone to extreme weather. The 2021 fires there set emissions records and saw wildfire smoke reach the North Pole for the first time in recorded history.

In 2022, fires killed over a dozen people across Siberia.

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