We woke up and didn’t see a thing. The smell of burning filled my nose. Helicopters hovered in the air like wagtails. I gathered dead insects. It seems that, like them, the city was struggling, yet was somehow still alive.
According to official figures, the area of wildfires has reached three million hectares. A fifth of them are in the Irkutsk region. Smoke bellows for the second month. As territories are engulfed in flames, smog travels for thousands of kilometres, filling the air in nearby settlements with toxic materials. Residents experience persistent headaches and cannot cope with the insomnia. “The situation will not improve as long as mass deforestation remains uncontrolled,” they sigh, setting off home.
I spent all of July in a city in Irkutsk. I saw beautiful, foggy landscapes, but they did not speak for the suffocating people, animals and insects. Today is the 11th August – the first day of heavy rain. Over the past day, twelve wildfires have been eliminated, but another 125 are still burning. Tomorrow, for the first time in a very long time, we will see the other side of the river bank.