Russia’s army has sent water-bombing planes to support thousands of firefighters battling huge wildfires in Siberia, a region known for its frozen tundra that is now sweltering under a heatwave.
Flames are tearing across 800,000 hectares of forest, and the hardest-hit region of Yakutia in the north has been in a state of emergency for weeks as climate scientists sound the alarm about the potential long-term impact.
On Tuesday, more than 2,600 firefighters were battling blazes in Yakutia, which has borne the brunt of the fires in recent years.
“We’re suffocating, our lungs are being poisoned by acrid smoke,” reads one of two online petitions by Yakutia’s residents addressed to President Vladimir Putin. They are asking for more equipment and forces to combat the fires.
Russia has seen its annual fire season become more ferocious in recent years, as climate change has driven unusually high temperatures across the northern Siberian tundra. This year, temperatures have already hit new record highs.
“The fire risk has seriously flared up across practically the entire country because of the abnormal heatwave,” defence minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.
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