Large areas of Siberia are on fire, sparking concerns that the blaze could soon morph into the next Australian bushfire crisis. The timing is particularly dangerous as officials in Russia are currently focused on handling the coronavirus pandemic, which has currently infected around 200,000 people and claimed the lives of close to 2,000 throughout the country.
Though Siberia tends to suffer from fires annually, experts are warning that warmer spring temperatures have made the blazes much worse this year. For example, ZME Science reported that one specific region of Siberia, known as Krasnoyarsk, has seen the fires reach 10 times more than the area of last year’s fires.
In addition, the fires in the Amur region have engulfed one and a half times the area as last year, while the burned territory in Transbaikal is three times larger. Overall, nine areas in Siberia have been affected by the wildfires, causing smoke and pollution to mar the landscape.
Experts are already worrying that the wildfires could become the next Australian wildfire crisis. The bushfires, which ravaged the island nation from late 2019 to early 2020, destroyed around 46 million acres and killed at least 34 people and an estimated 1 billion animals. The season has since been titled “black summer” due to its catastrophic outcome.
Many of the similarities between the two situations hedge on the fact that both regions suffered from warmer temperatures, low precipitation, and heavy winds. The combination, experts claim, is a perfect storm for fast-moving and dangerous fires.
Worse still, the coronavirus pandemic is causing many Russians to flee to the countryside, ignoring fire safety rules in the process. In fact, Sergei Anoprienko, the head of the federal forest agency, blamed the COVID-19 lockdown for the increase in fire activity.
“People self-isolated outdoors and forgot about fire safety rules. In some regions, the temperature is already around 30 degrees Celsius [around 86 degrees Fahrenheit], and people just can’t keep themselves in their apartments,” he said.
“We can keep talking about the forecast for a very long time, but the actual fire situation will literally depend on us and you – on how we will behave,” Anoprienko added, per The Siberian Times.
Enormous grassland fires in Siberia/Mongolia this morning. pic.twitter.com/rgmPPeTpXp— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) April 29, 2013
Emergencies Minister Evgeny Zinichev also warned about the dangers of the growing wildfires.
“A critical situation with fires has developed in Siberia and the Far East,” he announced in a video on the crisis.
Meanwhile, though President Vladimir Putin is aware of the fires, he has stated that his main focus remains on the coronavirus.
“All the efforts are now primarily concentrated on countering the spread of the coronavirus,” he announced.
COVID-19 is currently wreaking havoc in the country, and three medical workers on the frontlines have recently fallen from windows in mysterious circumstances, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.