GALI, DFWatch–Wildfires tore through several villages here in the Gali district of Abkhazia on Tuesday. The fires broke out late last night and soon spread to populated areas due to strong winds.
Despite reports by the breakaway authorities that they have brought the fires under control, locals DFWatch spoke to denied this and instead say that the situation is deteriorating by the hour.
At the same time, the Gali residents also deny another claim by Sokhumi that three villages in the district were evacuated.
“The fire could not be extinguished, the firefighters were working on the spot, but to no avail. Several houses burned down. The blaze ravaged hazelnuts and vineyards. A strong wind is hampering all efforts to extinguish the fire,” a 40-year-old teacher from the village of Zemo Barghebi in the Gali district told DFWatch.
She added that last night, at one point the fire diminished and people thought that everything was over, but in fact the burning areas were left and the fire resumed again.
“Everything is burning in Zemo Barghebi now. If it reaches densely populated areas, no house will be saved,” she said.
There are fires in the villages of Sida, Sofchai, Refi and Khumushkuri (the villages are referred to by Georgian names), various locals told DFWatch.
“[The fire] started late at night. It did not reach us, it did not reach the population. The forest was burning, but it is windy and it could get worse with us. Still last night no one thought the fires would cost homes. Barghebi is our border village, it seems the wind was blowing in that direction. We have survived so far, but as far as we know, people in Barghebi have been affected. People say there are big fires in the village of Refi,” a 31-year-old woman in the village Sida told DFWatch.
It is still unknown exactly in what area the fire spread and when it will be fully contained. The only thing the residents can hope for is for the wind to calm down and that Russian army helicopters will be deployed. Many residents joined the firefighters to battle the flames.
“Everyone is fighting hard, there are about 15 fire trucks on the ground, but there is no water. Both the wells and rivers have low water levels. The wind is blowing and it all makes it harder to fight the fire. Many hope now a Russian military helicopter may be called in, otherwise the entire population will lose their homes,” said another local, a woman from the village Zemo Barghebi.