The massive fires that swept through nearly 60 villages and towns in the Siberian republic of Khakassia have left 23 people dead, and more than 900 injured, according to an official committee investigating the tragedy.
committee can confirm 23 deaths,” head of the investigative
committee Vladimir Markin was quoted as saying by TASS.
More than 1,400 homes were destroyed in the fire, leaving some
6,000 people homeless, according to regional governor Viktor
Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally coordinated
emergency services operations in Khakassia, according to his
Some 5,000 firefighters as well as thousands of volunteers worked
to contain the blazes through the night, extinguishing the fires
by Monday morning. Temporary camps have been set up in the Beisky
and Shirinksy districts nearby for those displaced by the fire.
The fires started after mass grass burning by residents in the
region. Grass burning is a springtime tradition among farmers in
some parts of Russia, meant to clear the fields of dry grass and
prepare them for planting.
Officials blamed the extreme severity of this year’s fire on
“uncontrolled burning, dry weather and uncharacteristically
strong and rough winds.”
“As soon as snow melts, while rivers are still covered by
ice, dry grass burns like gunpowder,” said emergency
Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov, “People begin to burn
grass on their plots and fire spreads to agricultural land and
pastures are burnt.”