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Smoke from wildfires covers 1,000 villages in Siberia

August 11, 2021 GMT
Volunteers pause while working at the scene of forest fire near Kyuyorelyakh village at Gorny Ulus area west of Yakutsk, in Russia Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. Wildfires in Russia's vast Siberia region endangered a dozen villages Saturday and prompted authorities to evacuate some residents. (AP Photo/Ivan Nikiforov)
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Volunteers pause while working at the scene of forest fire near Kyuyorelyakh village at Gorny Ulus area west of Yakutsk, in Russia Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. Wildfires in Russia's vast Siberia region endangered a dozen villages Saturday and prompted authorities to evacuate some residents. (AP Photo/Ivan Nikiforov)
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Volunteers pause while working at the scene of forest fire near Kyuyorelyakh village at Gorny Ulus area west of Yakutsk, in Russia Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. Wildfires in Russia's vast Siberia region endangered a dozen villages Saturday and prompted authorities to evacuate some residents. (AP Photo/Ivan Nikiforov)

MOSCOW (AP) — Smoke covered hundreds of villages in Siberia as wildfires raged for another day in Russia’s vast, forest-rich region.

Emergency officials in southeastern Siberia’s Irkutsk oblast said Wednesday that smoke from the wildfires in the north and in the neighboring Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, covered 736 villages and nine cities in the region.

In the Krasnoyarsk area west of Irkutsk, officials said 944 settlements were shrouded in smoke from the Yakutia fires on Wednesday — 75 more than the day before.

According to Russia’s aerial forest protection agency, Avialesookhrana, as of early morning Wednesday, a total of 169 active fires were burning across 3.9 million hectares (9.6 million acres) in Yakutia, a vast region in northeastern Siberia that has been worst affected by the fires this year.

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Local authorities on Wednesday evacuated 39 residents from Yakutia’s Melzhekhsi village as the flames were only 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away.

Yelena Volosyuk, meteorologist with the Fobos weather center, pointed to scarce precipitation in Yakutia this year and abnormally high temperatures as fueling the widespread fires.

“Every now and again this summer, temperature records in the Sakha Republic were broken,” Volosyuk told The Associated Press in an interview.

Like parts of Europe, North Africa and the United States, Russia has recorded high temperatures in recent years that many scientists regard as a result of climate change. The hot weather coupled with the neglect of fire safety rules has caused a growing number of fires.

Experts also blame the worsening fire situation on a 2007 decision to disband a federal aviation network that spotted and combatted wildfires. The network’s assets were transferred to regional authorities, a much-criticized move that led to the fire-spotting force’s rapid decline.

The forests that cover huge areas of Russia make identifying new fires a challenge.

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