Borjomi fire rages for third day
A wildfire has been blazing in the Borjomi canyon for three days already. According to various data, the fire has already destroyed 12 hectares of forest.
The fire has proven to be difficult to extinguish. Georgia has appealed for help from its neighbors and from members of the European Union – stated the Minister of Agriculture of Georgia Levan Davitashvili.
Davitashvili says that the scale of the disaster is expanding, and that experts recommend to mobilize even more resources in order to fight it.
Photo from the one of the tragedy from the site of television company, «Borjomi»
In Tsaghveri forest, about 500 firefighters are attempting to extinguish the fire with the help of special equipment. They are being helped by three helicopters in the air, one of which has been sent from Azerbaijan.
Another two helicopters were expected to arrive from Turkey this morning. According to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Giorgi Mgebrishvili, the helicopters have been delayed because of bad weather conditions in Turkey that morning, but they are already en route and will soon be on site.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection said that certain actions had been taken over night: a three-kilometer road was laid down in the forest in order to help fire trucks reach the point of ignition more quickly.
In the canyon, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, a base has been set up in order to help control and oversee the process of the fight against the fire. The base has announced that currently there is no need to evacuate the surrounding population.
Despite this, residents of the surrounding villages are frightened. Many have decided not to leave only because they are afraid that if they do, then no one will be there to defend their homes and put out the fire.
Residents of the settlement of Daba are in a panic and have left their homes. One family has taken all their things and resettled with their relatives in another village. Local residents say: “We took the animals to a safe place, but the fire is getting closer. The village is about to burn, we are afraid. We had fires earlier, but nothing like this. Earlier, parts of the forest would burn, but now one enormous fire is moving on us. The situation is critical. We are waiting for the fire to jump onto the houses. The fire is marching towards the village. It is the second day it has been burning, and they are trying to put it out with a single helicopter. By the time they set up the base [here], everything will be burnt and destroyed.”
This is not the first fire in Tsaghveri forest. There was a fire there in 2008 as well, during the Russian-Georgian war, which was a result of military actions.
It is still unknown what has caused this fire. The fire started on 20 August near the settlement of Daba, and engulfed nearly half a hectare of land. Thereafter, a strong wind and high temperature helped it spread, and soon it engulfed an enormous territory.
According to an ecologist, the government is also to blame for this tragedy due to its late and inefficient response to the event.
In the middle of the day on 21 August, Emergency Headquarters announced the localization of the main points of ignition. However later it turned out that not only was this assessment incorrect, but other main points of the fire had also developed.
According to the head of the national forestry agency Tornike Gvazava, more than 12 hectares of forest have already been burnt.
Ecologists and representatives of the local authorities have pointed to a lack of special anti-fire equipment. Ecologists say that the authorities were not ready for such a threat – for this hot and dry summer.
The coordinator of the conservation program of the non-governmental organization “Green Alternative” Irakli Macharashvili, told Radio Freedom in an interview that, with the help of financing from international donors, a whole slew of documents had been prepared that detailed measures that would be taken in the case of a forest fire and measures that would help prevent such a tragedy, but in vain.
He believes that if the state cannot receive the necessary equipment, then it must have a tight line of communication with neighboring and partner countries in order to receive the equipment from them including effective help. However, neighboring countries were contacted only on 21 August – too late.
The President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, answered a question of a journalist from television company Rustavi 2 as to the effectiveness of the actions taken by the government in fighting the fire. He answered rather vaguely, and refused to assess the actions of the government.