Deadly wildfires hit Ukraine's Crimea peninsula

Firefighters in Ukraine were battling four major forest fires on Monday, the most dangerous in the Crimean peninsula and three more in the eastern Kherson province.

Deadly wildfires hit Ukraine's Crimea peninsula
Firefighters in Ukraine were battling four major forest fires on Monday, the most dangerous in the Crimean peninsula and three more in the eastern Kherson province.

A blaze in the rugged Alkupkinsky region, north of Crimea port city Sevastopol on the Black Sea, had by Monday killed a forestry worker and his wife, and destroyed more than 100 square hectares of evergreen forest, the Interfax news agency reported.

If unstopped the wildfire could force the evacuation of dozens of villages, said Nestor Shufrich, head of Ukraine's Emergency Situations Ministry.

"If the fire gets across the crest of the mountains, we are going to have to move people out of their homes," Shufrich said.

More than 1,000 firefighters supported by dozens of vehicles and two aircraft bombing the fire with water and chemicals since its Friday outbreak have failed to put out the blaze.

Steep terrain and lack of roads in the area was impeding the firefighting effort, Shufrich said.

The Inter television channel aired images of fire workers on a mountainside attempting to beat back the flames using blankets.

Firefighters, military personnel, and more than 300 volunteers from villages in the vicinity on Monday were concentrating on cutting fire breaks and preventing the blaze's spread.

One fireman has been injured in the control effort. Shufrich declined to to predict when the fire would be put out.

Police said the most likely cause of the fire, according to Shurfich the most dangerous seen in Ukraine since 1993, was an unattended campfire burning out of control.

Lying between flat steppe in the north and a semi-tropical Black Sea coast in the south, the wild heights of the Crimean mountains are thinly populated, though some heights are only a few dozen kilometres Black Sea coast which is heavily visited by tourists.

Emergency workers in the Kherson region were continuing efforts to control another three fires burning for more than a week, and through Monday having destroyed some 3,200 square hectares of forest, Korrespondent magazine reported.

All three blazes were contained by Friday, and are being allowed to burn themselves out, according to the report.

Police last week detained a Kherson resident on possible arson charges connected with the largest of the three fires, near the village Maly Kopani.

Boris Silenkov, Kherson province governor, last week accused local firefighters of incompetence, saying firefighters alerted by local residents initially extinguished the Maly Kopani fire, only to depart shortly thereafter.

Winds fanning still-hot embers insufficiently doused by the firemen allowed the blaze to ignite again, Silenkov claimed. Shufrich in a previous statement said the incident was under investigation.

A torrid heat wave has blanketed Ukraine for much of the last week, leaving wooded areas tinder-dry and water reservoirs at record low levels. Temperatures fell somewhat over the weekend, but a steady breeze replacing the heat has fanned flames in the forest fires.

DPA
Last Mod: 27 Ağustos 2007, 18:15
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