Horrendous footage from Siberia shows a graveyard on fire as wildfires engulf huge areas of eastern Russia, leaving an estimated 20 people dead so far.
Videos posted by The Siberian Times, an English-language news website based in Siberia, show fires in the Krasnoyarsk region. In one clip from the Urals, houses are shown engulfed in flames, with many already reduced to cinders, while the ground around graves burns.
Another clip taken from a moving vehicle shows apocalyptic scenes, with the sky darkened with smoke and every house and building the car passes on fire. A spokesperson for the website told Newsweek the situation was “horrendous.”
“It’s endless days of heartache, horror and tears watching the war,” the spokesperson said.
Russia is hit by wildfires every year, but recent years have seen unprecedented damage and land burned. In 2020, Greenpeace Russia estimated that over 19 million hectares of land burned—an area roughly equivalent to the size of Greece. These fires followed an extensive drought in the region.
A report from 2020 said the heatwave seen in Siberia in the first six months of the year would have been “almost impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change.”
In 2021, the taiga forests in Siberia and the far east saw record-breaking wildfires following extreme heat and drought. These wildfires were so extreme, smoke from them reached the North Pole.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the current wildfires on Tuesday, telling local authorities to take greater action to prevent and deal with them. “We can’t allow a repeat of the last year’s situation,” he said. “We need to combat fires in a more efficient, systemic and consistent way. This issue is of principal importance for our country and the entire world.”
In a tweet, The Siberian Times said: “As [Putin] presided over the meeting earlier today, new wildfires hit Urals, destroying houses and a graveyard in Bezrechniy village near Yekaterinburg.”
Officials have said the wildfires in Krasnoyarsk, Omsk and Kuzbass were caused by faulty electricity lines, according to Russian news website tayga.info. It said several representatives from the energy companies Rosseti and Inter RAO have been detained. The website put the current death toll from the fires at 17, but Russian news website RIA Novosti has now said 20 have died.
In a meeting held on Tuesday, Putin told local governors additional funds had been made available from the federal budget following the 2021 fires, according to tayga.info. “Resources are allocated—do you use them?” he is quoted as saying. “And what prevents today to respond in a timely manner to the occurrence of fires?
“I would like to emphasize once again: all the proposals of the subjects of the federation were supported, funds were allocated … from the federal center … If this is not the case, tell me about it today—all conditions have been created to reduce the area of fires by a multiple, [to] ensure that they are extinguished quickly and effectively. This is the responsibility of the subjects.”
The Siberian Times spokesperson said the wildfires do not appear to be contained at the moment. “Khakassia not getting better at all, Kuzbass is also pretty bad,” they said. “With all our hope for enough equipment and manpower this year, looking at last several years we really don’t see why suddenly there will be change.”