Smoke from forest fires fills a town in Russia’s Far East

YAKUTSK, RUSSIA, Aug 9 (Reuters) – Smoke from fires raging in Russia’s Far East has engulfed the city of Yakutsk, forcing residents to close doors and windows and wear face masks, despite the summer heat.

A state of emergency has been declared in seven regions of Russia due to the fires, according to the Russian Forest Service, which collects satellite data on the fires. About 4,000 people are involved in the fight against the fires.

The most affected areas are the vast region of Yakutia, also called the Republic of Sakha, followed by the regions of Khabarovsk, Amur and Krasnoyarsk.

Deputy Minister of Ecology and Forests in Yakutia, Andrei Konoplyov, told Reuters TV on Wednesday that there were currently 111 forest fires in his region alone, covering 1,800 km(2).

“Because of the smoke, we cannot open the windows of the house or the car. Only people with air conditioners and fans are spared,” said Lyubov Kolesova, a resident of Yakutsk.

“Actually, it’s a bit easier on the streets today because of the wind but when you stay in the same place or at home, it’s not very comfortable,” she added.

Russia is home to more than a fifth of the planet’s forests, which play a vital role in regulating the global climate.

Its boreal forests, also called “taiga”, are composed mainly of birch, pine, spruce and fir, and constitute the largest forest region in the world, covering an area approximately four times larger than that of India. (Written by Guy Faulconbridge; French version Nathan Vifflin, editing by Kate Entringer)

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