- The scale of the damage caused by recent
forest fires in Russia's Far East amounts to a world-wide ecological disaster,
a United Nations team has said.
- The Russian news agency, Itar-Tass, said
the team was shocked by the destruction it saw on the island of Sakhalin
and the vast region of Khabarovsk near the border with China.
- The experts said the damage would have
far-reaching consequences not only for neighbouring countries, but for
the entire northern hemisphere.
- The head of the team, Vladimir Sakhorov,
said the UN was seeking further funding to tackle the devastation.
- "We are convinced that such fires
must be fought not only through efforts at the local level but also through
moves by Federal authorities of Russia, as well as with assistance from
other countries," he said.
- More than 1.5 million hectares of taiga,
the coniferous forest-land characteristic of Siberia, have been destroyed
since the fires began early this year. Two-thirds of Sakhalin Island has
been affected by the blazes, which have killed three people and left 700
- In many places fires are still raging,
despite snow and rain. Heavy smoke is preventing air surveys from being
carried out and there has been difficulty finding sufficient funds to tackle