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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Forest fires rage in Siberia
Forest fires are raging in Russia's Far East
New forest fires are breaking out every day
Thousands of acres of forest are ablaze in Russia's Far East.

The fires are raging in the area of Siberia called the Jewish Autonomous Region, near the border with China.

Russian Independent TV said 27 separate fires were blazing in the region and over 3,000 hectares of forest had been destroyed over the last few days.

It said new fires were breaking out every day.

The fires are mainly caused by people gathering wood and berries who light bonfires which they do not put out properly, the TV said.

Local firefighters and rescue workers say the authorities are not providing enough funds to help fight the fires.

Fire fighting is being hampered by lack of funds
The fires have destroyed thousands of acres of forest
Fuel for helicopters to help fight the fires is given as loans and in some places people have had to use spades to dig around individual fires to create firebreaks, the TV said.

The Jewish Autonomous Region was founded by Stalin in 1934 as a "homeland" for Soviet Jews. It is located in the Russian Far East and borders China to the south.

The area, also known as Birobidzhan after the capital town, has no connection with Jews and most of the estimated 40,000 Jews who settled there in the 1930s later returned to European Russia.

In the 1980s and 90s many more emigrated to Israel or the USA.

Russians now make up the majority of inhabitants of the area, which is still called the Jewish Autonomous Region.

Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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