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US sending help to fight Russian fire as it nears nuclear base

world Updated: Aug 14, 2010 13:23 IST

The US is sending firefighting equipment to Russia to help it combat unprecedented wildfires that have ravaged several parts of the country killing over 50 people and are now threatening a key nuclear base.

President Barack Obama called his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev to express his deepest condolences over the tragic losses Russia has suffered in the recent wildfires.

The American people stand with the Russians in this difficult time, he said.

Obama said the US is responding to Russia's request for technical assistance in combating the fires, with the USAID, Department of Defence, US Forest Service and State of California mobilising firefighting equipment and airlift to assist Russia in fighting the wildfires.

Soon thereafter, State Department spokesman P J Crowley said the US had already begun deliveries of firefighting equipment valued at approximately $2.5 million to bolster Russia's fire suppression efforts. These deliveries include water tanks, pumps, hand tools, fire-protective clothing and medical kits.

The US also contributed $50,000 to support the operations of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to provide relief items, including blankets, bedding and food parcels for victims.

The State of California has contributed additional supplies of fire-protective clothing.

Total overall US support for this effort is estimated to be valued at $4.5 million.

Two C-130 aircraft from US EUCOM and a charter flight from California are scheduled to reach Moscow shortly. Two more C-130 flights will also leave for Moscow.

"The United States stands with the people of Russia as they fight to contain the destructive spread of wildfires, which have taken lives and displaced many from their homes. We are taking action to support the heroic efforts of Russian firefighters and emergency responders as they seek to bring these fires under control," Crowley said.

Russia is home to nearly one fourth of the world's forests and it is important these fires are brought under control, he said.

"Americans and Russians share a history of over 50 combined years of cooperation between forestry and emergency response professionals that can help in this regard," he said.

"This is the latest example of cooperation between our two peoples when disaster strikes. Russia has offered assistance to the US after Hurricane Katrina and most recently in oil spill cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico," he said.

According to Russian authorities, more than 50 people have been killed in the wildfires, which are now closing in on a nuclear base in that country.