Russian authorities delay extinguishing of forest fires
Smoke blowing from the east again reduces air quality in Finnish towns
Finland's Ministry of the Interior reports that efforts to put out forest fires near the Finnish border have been delayed by Russia's Guard Service, which has denied access by firefighters to the zone. Russia is currently expanding its zone to 25 kilometres in many places.
The Ministry of the Interior received the information from the Russian forestry authorities. Ministerial Adviser Harry Frelander of the Ministry of the Interior's Rescue Department notes, however, that the problem has already been resolved.
On Wednesday, Minister of the Interior Kari Rajamäki sent a letter to Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu asking that the Russian authorities would keep their Finnish colleagues updated about the forest fire situation.
Currently, it looks very unlikely that the fires should spread to Finland. Moreover, the Russian Ministry for Emergencies has announced that the situation is under control and no help from Finnish firefighters is required for the time being.
On Wednesday, the wind blew the smoke towards the Finnish region of Kymenlaakso, causing poor air quality in towns right across South-Eastern and Southern Finland. In the coastal city of Kotka elevated concentrations of airborne fine particles were at their highest at 9:00 a.m., and the city was covered by smoke for several hours.
The smoke reached the Greater Helsinki area around noon. For an hour, the concentrations of fine particles were tenfold compared with the annual average, causing extremely poor air quality.
The smoke started dispersing in the Greater Helsinki area before 2.00 p.m., while in Kotka the air quality was back to normal already around noon.
At sea the visibility was occasionally down to just two kilometres on Wednesday. Ossi Pylväläinen of the Gulf of Finland Coast Guard reported that there was clearly more smoke off and around Helsinki than there had been during the last few days. However, the smoke did not cause any problems for maritime traffic.
Finland's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health advised local health centres and hospitals to prepared for the possibility that more patients with symptoms caused by smoke would seek medical attention than usual.
People with heart and pulmonary disorders are especially succeptible to symptoms caused by elevated particle concentrations. Hence, the ministry advised those who are sensitive to smoke to stay indoors and to go to see a doctor if their symptoms are severe.
According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the wind is expected to blow from the east for the time being, which is likely to result in more smoke coming across the border also in the coming days.
"Rains would put out the flames and clear the air, but no rain has been forecast for the next few days", commented Professor Risto Hillamo of the Meteorological Institute.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish Foreign Ministry sends request for information on Russian forest fires (9.8.2006)
Russia to expand security zone on border with Finland up to 25
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Finnish Meteorological Institute