UPDATED: Forest fire in Borjomi Gorge now close to nearby settlement

 
22 August 2017

published by http://agenda.ge


Georgia - A massive wildfire in Georgia’s Borjomi Gorge has intensified due to windy weather and it is now threatening nearby settlements.

As of 5:30pm today, there are three main spots of fire that firefighters are currently unable to extinguish. These are the forests near:

All of these fires are intense but the most difficult one is the blaze near the village of Daba because it has almost reached the settlement. Reports say there is only about 100 metres left between the forest covered in fire and the central road of the village.

Five fire engines have been sent to the village to fight the fire and make sure it does not reach homes.

Health Minister David Sergeenko said that in Daba there is a great deal of ashes in the air, posing hazards for those with respiratory system problems. He recommended locals to stay indoors or use masks.

Several helicopters are currently working to handle the fire while several others are expected to join them later from neighbouring countries. Georgia has asked for help from all of its neighbours as well as the European Union.

Experts say that wind is good as it cleans the air from ashes and smoke, but on the other hand, it makes the fire extinguishing efforts more difficult and makes fire spread to new locations. Weather specialists do not expect rain in the Gorge until tomorrow.

Fire started in Borjomi forests three days ago. Since then hundreds of firefighters have been working on the ground but they could not approach the troubled locations before roads were paved in the forest.

Borjomi Gorge is home to a number of unique species of trees. Some of them are in Georgia’s list of endangered species.

Resorts in Borjomi Gorge are Georgia’s one of the most popular tourist destinations.

FIRST UPDATED: 14:37

Georgia has been offered more international help as a massive forest fire is still raging after it broke out three days ago in the country’s central region.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said a short time ago that several units of fire appliances are on their way to Georgia’s Borjomi Gorge from Armenia.

Apart from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey are also helping the country fight the fire. Azerbaijan was the first to send a helicopter yesterday.

This afternoon Turkey also sent two helicopters and, upon a decision of the Turkish Prime Minister, a large Turkish firefighting aircraft will also arrive later today.

Georgia was offered help from Russia too, but Prime Minister Kvirikashvili said "what we have so far is enough”. He hopes that no additional help will be needed.

Georgia has sent information about the massive wildfire to the European Union countries too. Agriculture Minister Levan Davitashvili said that all partner countries are ready to help, but authorities hope that the help only from neighbouring countries will be enough.

Windy weather and high temperature make it difficult for firefighters to handle the blaze.

Heavy machinery is working to pave roads in the forest so that firefighting units can easily approach the fire zones.

Temporary water pipes are being installed near the forest so that water supply is ensured for fire engines.

EARLIER: 11:26

It is the third day that a massive forest fire which broke out in the Borjomi Gorge is still raging in Central Georgia.

The latest estimations say that tens of hectares of forestland is on fire.

Late last night, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili travelled to Borjomi. On his order, a special headquarters has been set up that unites authorities from all relevant state agencies to draw up strategies for handling the fire.

Kvirikashvili said that this morning the situation is "better than last night”, but there still is a threat of the blaze spreading because the weather is windy in Borjomi.

Currently, three helicopters are trying to extinguish the fire from the sky. Two of these were sent to the danger zone from Tbilisi while one was sent from Azerbaijan upon an order of President Ilham Aliyev.

The Georgian side held negotiations with another neighbouring country last night and it was decided that Turkey will send two additional helicopters to help Georgia fight the fire.

Prime Minister Kvirikashvili said the Turkish helicopters are already on their way. They will fill their cisterns in Batumi and will join the other three helicopters that are already working in about two hours.

Apart from helicopter efforts, up to 500 firefighters, rescuers and rangers have been fighting the fire since last night.

Volunteers also appeared in Borjomi – some travelled from Tbilisi to the troubled region – and are ready to help professionals fight the fire but they were asked not to take any actions yet because it might come in the way of firefighters’ work. Besides, the special headquarters said in a statement that it is dangerous for non-professionals to approach the fire with no special equipment.

Head of the Georgian State Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri, who also has been in Borjomi since last night, said that the army will also join firefighters if there is a need for this.

Currently, two main spots of fire remains in Borjomi Gorge: one is near the village of Tsagveri and the other is close to the town of Borjomi. Authorities said that so far there is no danger that the fire will reach the settlements, but they have a plan of evacuation ready just in case.