Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 6

Bitter winter weather is putting a severe strain on heating systems throughout Siberia, where temperatures have dipped to minus 50 degrees Celsius and even lower. In the city of Krasnoyarsk, sixty multistory apartment buildings were without heat yesterday as a result of accidents in electricity substations. Twenty districts in Krasnoyarsk Krai reported early today that the situation with their fuel supplies was “critical,” with only one to three days’ worth of coal supplies remaining. The Krasnoyarsk Krai districts of Kanask and Ilansk districts, along with the towns of Uzhur, Zaozernyi and Yeniseisk, reported that their coals supplies had already run out. Meanwhile, the temperature in many apartments which did have heat was reportedly not higher than 10 degrees Celsius. Officials from Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry (MChS) were quoted as blaming the local authorities in these districts and towns for having had a lackadaisical attitude toward ensuring sufficient fuel supplies for the winter (see the Monitor, January 4).

Meanwhile, the authorities in Novosibirsk managed last night to repair a portion of the city’s heating system which had broken down yesterday morning, leaving eighteen apartment blocks and nine state installations without heat. The accident apparently occurred because the Siberian city’s worn-out heating system could not take the increased demands caused by the sharp dip in temperatures, which had gotten as low as minus 50 Celsius in Novosibirsk. The city “warmed up” a bit yesterday, with temperatures reaching minus 24 Celsius, but forecasters were predicting another sharp drop in temperatures. On January 7, the heating system in the town of Listvyansky, located in the Iskitinsky region of Novosibirsk Oblast, broke down, leaving some 2,000 people without heat. Heat was partially restored in that area yesterday. There was a similar breakdown in the town surrounding a Defense Ministry factory in Novosibirsk Oblast’s Moskovsky region, which left twelve apartment buildings and their 2,500 residents without heat. MChS officials in Novosibirsk Oblast, like their colleagues in Krasnoyarsk, blamed local officials for being unprepared for possible extreme winter temperatures and overall “unprofessionalism.” The situation was said to be improving today, however, with heat being restored in some areas after round-the-clock repair work.

Similar problems were reported in Irkutsk Oblast, where temperatures dropped to minus 50 degrees Celsius. More than 3,000 apartments in Usolye-Sibirskoe, a town in Irkutsk Oblast, were left without heat yesterday. In all the Siberian areas affected by the extreme cold the situation has been exacerbated by the aging and poor condition of the heating systems and boiler equipment. On January 6, the authorities in the city of Barnaul, in Altai Krai, had to evacuate people from hospitals when the temperature plummeted to minus 55 degrees Celsius and caused a breakdown in the heating system. Barnaul’s heating system was repaired and providing heat by the following day, but elevators in the city were reportedly not working and almost no buses were running due to the cold.

Meanwhile, the Arctic temperatures and heating crisis in Siberia has adversely affected situation in Primorsky Krai, the region of Russia’s Far East that has been suffering its own energy crisis this winter (see the Monitor, December 1, 2000). The region began again experiencing blackouts today: Electricity was cut for more than four hours because the region’s largest electric station was not working at capacity. That, in turn, was the result of a drop in deliveries of coal due to the sharp drop in temperatures in neighboring Siberia, Primorsky energy officials were quoted as saying. The officials said the power outages in Primorsky might continue as long as the record low temperatures continued in Siberia, which is being forced to use all the coal it extracts rather than sell it outside the region. The coalmining region of Kemerovo has experienced some of the lowest temperatures in the current cold snap. Meanwhile, Primorsky Krai was hit by a major snowstorm today, and temperatures there are expected to drop to minus 35 Celsius (Russian agencies, NTV, January 7-9).