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    Putin takes control of wildfire crisis (update 1)

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    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered a total of 5 billion rubles ($165 million) to be disbursed from the federal budget to the central Russian areas worst affected by wildfires, his spokesman said on Friday.

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered a total of 5 billion rubles ($165 million) to be disbursed from the federal budget to the central Russian areas worst affected by wildfires, his spokesman said on Friday.

    Over the last 24 hours, over 1,000 homes have been destroyed in the largest wildfire ever to hit the European part of Russia.

    Dmitry Peskov said the money will go to people who have lost their homes in the republics of Mordovia and Tatarstan, as well as the regions of Belgorod, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Kirov, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan, Ulyanovsk, Vladimir, Lipetsk, Tambov and Tula.

    Peskov said Putin had put himself in charge of the situation.

    "The last point of the order reads: 'I shall personally oversee the implementation of the present order. V. Putin,'" Peskov said.

    Earlier on Friday Putin said local government chiefs who have failed to cope with the deadly wildfires in central Russia should resign.

    Many residents in the Nizhny Novgorod region, whose houses had been burnt down in the fires, complained to Putin, at the scene to assess the situation, that the actions taken by local authorities were chaotic and uncoordinated.

    At least five people died and 21 people were hospitalized in the Voronezh region. A further 100 people received medical assistance and over 2,500 were evacuated.

    The prime minister said the families of those who died in wildfires would receive 1 million rubles ($33,000) in compensation each. He also said the government would allocate around 3 million rubles ($100,000) for the reconstruction of each burnt down house.

    Putin said the government would also allocate funds to compensate the loss of personal property.

    "21,690 fires have been registered in Russia for this period [summer 2010]," Putin said. "This is 10 percent more than last year."

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for the immediate construction of housing for those left homeless by the fires.

    Russian Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin said anyone who had lost their home as a result of the fires would receive a new one by yearend.

    The ministry has dispatched additional firefighting units and 16 aircraft and helicopters to fight wildfires in five regions of central Russia.

    Earlier on Friday, Medvedev ordered the government to take urgent additional measures to fight the fires and to allocate funds for damage compensation. Medvedev has also called for proposals to be drawn up on the purchase of additional firefighting equipment, including Be-200 aircraft.

    Temperatures across much of western and central Russia have topped 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) during the past five weeks, causing peat bog and forest fires and creating what is thought to be the worst drought since 1972.

     

    MOSCOW, July 30 (RIA Novosti)

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