Monday, August 2, 2010

Russia has Something in Common with Southern California

Sometimes, when we are raised and live in a certain area, we forget that there are other places in the world with some of the same problems. I live in sunny southern California and we have two acts of nature that we have learned to live with, earthquakes and, in the summer and early autumn each year –huge wildfires. In fact, we have a very large one burning right now. I was surprised when an intelligence bulletin this morning was talking about a huge wild fire, but is was in Russia! The bulletin’s summary of the fire read astonishingly like the news coverage of our own fire. Here are the details: 

Firefighters reduced the nationwide area on fire from 200 square miles from 440 square miles on Saturday, the government said. Unfortunately, more new fires erupted than were extinguished, and 438 were still burning on Sunday. Thousands of people have lost their homes and there were 28 deaths reported so far. Nearly a quarter of a million emergency workers have been deployed to fight the flames with the help of hundreds of soldiers.

President Dmitry Medvedev described the situation on Saturday as a "natural disaster of the kind that probably only happens every 30 or 40 years".

More famous for its bitterly cold winters, the giant country's European part normally enjoys short, warm summers. The number of fires recorded this year is already about 20% higher than in 2009, according to Russian emergencies ministry data. However, this July was the hottest month on record and Moscow, which sees an average high of 73 degrees (F) in the summer months, sweltering in 100 degrees (F) heat last Thursday.

"The threat of new fires has increased sharply due to unfavourable weather in a number of regions in the Central and Volga federal districts, with temperatures soaring to up to 104 degrees (F) and winds of up to 20 metres per second," the emergencies ministry said.
On Saturday, 369 new fires were registered while 338 were extinguished. To date, 10 different Russian regions have been affected with 1,257 homes destroyed and 5,200 people evacuated, the emergencies ministry said.

Worst hit were the regions of Voronezh, Ryazan, Vladimir, Ivanovo, Moscow, Mordovia (capital: Saransk), Nizhny Novgorod and Tatarstan (capital: Kazan). "There has never been a fire like this," firefighter Maxim Korolyov told AFP news agency in the village of Maslovka, Voronezh, where reportedly all but five of 150 houses burnt down on Friday.
"It's the first time I have had to fight a fire of this size." Elderly resident Vera Sakharova complained that firefighters had come too late. "We did not have any help," she told AFP. "We had to do everything ourselves."

The government is under pressure to rebuild ruined homes in time for winter - a promise Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made to residents of one devastated village in Nizhny Novgorod when he visited on Friday. 

Here is some amateur footage showing a car making a lucky escape from a forest fire raging in Russia's  Nizhny Novgorod region.

  = = = = Update on Iran = = = =  
A former CIA director says military action against Iran now seems more likely, because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program. Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, says that during his tenure a strike was "way down the list" of options. But he says that such action now "seems inexorable." He predicts Iran will build its program to the point where it's just below having an actual weapon. Hayden says that would be as destabilizing to the region as the real thing.

U.S. officials have said military action remains an option if sanctions fail to deter Iran. Iran continues to claim that its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes such as power generation.

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