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Fears of fast-spreading deadly fires like in 2010 arise in Russia

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • More than 200 new wildfires have been reported in Siberia
  • Residents and endangered forests are threatened
  • This year's fire three times larger than last year's, official news agency reports

(CNN) -- Russia sent emergency fire-fighting aircraft over Siberia's Taiga forests and residential areas to battle 200 new wildfires raging over the past 24 hours, the Emergency Ministry said Saturday.

Twenty-two major ones have been reported, officials said. Since summer began, there have more than 5,500 forest fire outbreaks in Siberia, the government agency reported, with 210,000 hectares (518,921 acres) ablaze, three times more than in 2010.

Russian Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is heading to the affected areas, said the most devastating fires are now raging in remote parts of Central and Eastern Siberia, as well as the Far East.

Shoigu said there are concerns of a repeat of last year's disaster, when a persistent drought and fires raged across the country, claiming more than 60 lives, destroying one-third of all crops and forcing Russia to ban grain exports.

"Wildfires (in Siberia) are greater in area compared to last year's fires by more than two times," he told Russian State TV on Saturday.

An I1-76 plane, bases at Bratsk airport, has carried out five flights to drop tons of water over the Chunsk district. An amphibious Be-200 and a Mi-8 helicopter are also engaged, Itar-Tass reported.

Siberia Gov. Dmitry Mezentsev has declared a state of emergency in the entire area as the situation appeared to be increasingly "deteriorating," the agency reported.

Siberia's ecosystems have become a main concern for climate scientists. Home to forests known as Taiga, or the boreal forest, scientists have registered major environmental changes in the Taiga as a result of global warming.

Last year, a multinational emergency task force came to Russia aid as wildfires roared against thousands of hectares, mostly in the nation's western provinces.