MOSCOW – Expanding wildfires prompted officials to declare a state of emergency in the Siberian regions of Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk, Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations said Monday.
“An emergency situation has been declared across the entire Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions, as well as certain parts of Buryatia,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk are the hardest-hit areas.
Due to the vast expanse of the flames, the smoke has reached other regions of Siberia and Russia’s Far East.
The flames have consumed nearly 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of forest, Deputy Minister Alexander Chupriyan said, while firefighters have identified 500 individual fire that continue to expand.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s representative for Siberia, Sergei Menyaylo, held a video conference Monday with authorities from across the vast region.
He urged officials to do as much as possible to dissipate the smoke and to ensure medical attention for affected residents.
Earlier Monday, the deputy director of Russia’s Federal Forestry Agency, Mikhail Klinov, was quoted by Russian news agency TASS as saying that the wildfires in Siberia did not constitute a “crisis situation.”