Fires & Floods. Russia, China, Pakistan. What’s the world coming too?

Fires & Floods. Russia, China, Pakistan.  What’s the world coming too?

Devastation from extreme weather continues its race across the northern hemisphere. Wildfires and soaring temperatures in Russia have wreaked havoc, with the Government looking for someone to blame. In Pakistan, 1500 people are feared dead and some three million affected in the worst flooding ever experienced.  A continuing wave of disastrous flooding in  China is severely testing the Three Gorges Dam, which officials have boasted could withstand floods so severe they come only once every 10 000 years.

By Isabel Gorst and Courtney Weaver for Washington Post (4 August 2010):

MOSCOW — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday broke off his vacation and ordered an investigation into the wildfires that have swept across the country, blaming local and military authorities for mismanagement.

Medvedev rushed back to Moscow from his vacation residence in Sochi in southern Russia, and ordered a meeting of senior safety officials, including the minister of defense. He said criminal cases would be opened into officials who had not fulfilled their duties.

The Kremlin has been criticized for failing to prepare for and contain the fires, which have killed 48 people and scorched some 1,885 square kilometers of land. On Wednesday, 520 wildfires were burning around central and western Russia, nine fewer than the day before.

“The situation with forest fires in the country has on the whole stabilised but remains tense and dangerous,” said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev’s move came as swathes of forest, farmland and peat bogs continued to burn, and the Russian capital was shrouded in increasingly acrid smog.

Fires around the industrial city of Vyksa in the Nizhny Novgorod region east of Moscow, sent clouds of choking smoke billowing over farmland and forests, where expanses of charred pine and birch trees could be seen, often still smoldering.

Officials said the smoke was hindering the battle to douse the flames, preventing firefighting aircraft from entering the area.

Valery Shantsev, the governor of Nizhny Novgorod, said firefighters were winning the battle, but warned the region would remain at risk until the heat wave and drought abated.

Weather forecasters have warned that temperatures will remain abnormally high for at least 10 more days and that no respite from the drought is in sight.

 Shantsev said at least 13 of 18 wildfires in the region had been brought under control as thousands of firefighters, soldiers and volunteers joined the battle to contain the crisis.


BBC Report (4 August 2010):  

The BBC’s Orla Guerin joined a Pakistani army helicopter crew on a mission into the disaster zone:

Poor weather is bringing more misery to Pakistan as authorities battle to contain record flooding, with yet more heavy rain forecast.

Rain is falling in parts of the north and east, with villages badly damaged and crops destroyed in fertile Punjab.

Meanwhile bloated rivers are carrying the floodwaters south.

Many of the displaced are openly and angrily asking why President Asif Ali Zardari is on a visit to the UK such a time of crisis, correspondents say.

At a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told ministers to speed up relief efforts, the AFP news agency reported.

The army insists it has mounted an effective rescue operation and says aid is now reaching those hit by the floods.

But thousands of displaced living in makeshift camps are still waiting for food and water – and say they do not expect it to come from the government but private individuals from neighbouring districts.

About 1,500 people are feared to have died and aid agencies say some three million have been affected by the flooding.


By Chi-chi Zhang for AP (29 July 2010):

 BEIJING — Record-high water levels put the capacity of China’s massive Three Gorges Dam to the test Wednesday after heavy rains raged on across the country, compounding flooding problems that already have left more than 1,200 people dead or missing.

The dam’s water flow reached 56,000 cubic meters per second (1.96 million cubic feet) Wednesday morning, the biggest peak flow this year with the water level reaching 518 feet (158 meters), the official Xinhua News Agency reported, about 10 percent less than the dam’s maximum capacity.

Chinese officials for years have boasted the dam could withstand floods so severe they come only once every 10,000 years. The dam is the world’s largest hydroelectric project and was also built to end centuries of floods along the Yangtze River basin.

Floods this year have killed at least 823 people, with 437 missing, and have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, the State Flood Control and Drought Prevention reported. More heavy rains are expected for the southeast, southwest and northeast parts of the country through Thursday.

Thousands of workers sandbagged riverbanks and checked reservoirs in Wuhan city in central Hubei province in preparation for potential floods expected to flow from the swollen Yangtze and Han rivers, an official with the Yangtze Water Resources Commission said Wednesday. He was surnamed Zhang but refused to give his full name as it common with Chinese officials.

“Right now, the Han river in Hubei province is on the verge breaching warning levels,” said Zhang.

The Han is expected to rise this week to its highest level in two decades, Xinhua reported.

Though China experiences heavy rains every summer, flooding this year is the worst in more than a decade, as the flood-prone Yangtze River Basin has seen 15 percent more rains than in an average year, Duan Yihong, director of the National Meteorological Center, said in a transcript of an interview Wednesday posted on the Xinhua website.


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