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Russia turns to shamans to stop Siberian wildfires

Russia turns to shamans to stop Siberian wildfires

While Russian military is sending planes to stop wildfires that have affected millions of hectares of forest in isolated areas in Siberia, Siberian shamans announced that they will ‘unite their powers’ to extinguish the flames.

Every shaman will hold a ceremony at their homes on Friday, after which “the rains will fall,” according to Timofey Moldanov, a prominent anthropologist from the city of Khanty-Mansiysk on the Irtysh River in western Siberia.

He said that the shamans had already talked to the spirits, and have “the backing of the higher powers secured” for the upcoming rite.

Siberia has been devastated by wildfires during this year’s hot summer. The worst-affected areas are in the Republic of Yakutia, where 1.1 million hectares of forest is burning; Krasnoyarsk Region (one million hectares); and Irkutsk Region (700,000 hectares). Currently, the total area affected by the blaze is comparable to the size of Albania. Emergency situations were declared in each of those regions, as well as in the nearby Republic of Buryatia.

Videos recorded by eyewitnesses show the scale of the disaster, and have captured desperate animals fleeing the woods to seek help from humans. Foxes and other wildlife emerge and come into contact with people quite often, but rarely in such vast quantities.

The wildfires are raging in isolated, hard-to-reach areas and don’t directly threaten any settlements, but they pose a serious threat to Russia’s forest resources. Siberia is also suffocating from smoke, which has already become a problem in the Urals on the border between Europe and Asia. Concerns were also raised that the fumes may reach as far as Moscow.

Russia military joined the fight against the wildfires on Thursday. A total of 10 Il-76 cargo planes, equipped with containers to carry and disperse water, have been deployed to Siberia’s third-largest city, Krasnoyarsk. They flew in from various parts of the country, with some traveling for almost a whole night to reach their destinations.

The huge aircraft can carry up to 42 tons of water at a time – the weight of which is similar to a railway tank wagon. The Il-76 planes will be performing at least 20 missions per day, with the first flights already taking place.

Some 10 Mi-8 helicopters will also arrive in the affected areas by the end of the day, the Defense Ministry said, adding that 270 troops and 40 units of special equipment were ready if needed.

Prior to this, 2,700 rescuers, 390 units of special equipment and 28 civilian planes were involved in tackling the wildfires.

On Thursday, the first criminal case relating to the wildfires was launched in Krasnoyarsk Region. Investigators suspect local officials of negligence, alleging that they didn’t do enough to deal with the fires, thereby allowing them to “spread on vast territories.”

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