A family of three has been rescued from the forest in Russia’s Siberian region of Tomsk, currently plagued by wildfires, after they laid out the word SOS with the trunks of birch trees, the regional Emergency Ministry reported on Thursday.
According to the ministry, a couple and their 20-year-old son went to the Krivosheinsky District near Tomsk over the weekend to pick berries. Having gotten lost in the woods, the family realized that salvation can only come from the air.
In order to attract the rescuers’ attention, the family “chopped down birch trees and laid out the word ‘SOS’ in Russian with the white trunks,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that “they had to eat berry and pinecone concoctions to survive.”
A pilot of the Emergency Ministry’s Mi-26 helicopter noticed the call for help on Tuesday and rescued the family.
Meanwhile, the total area of wildfires raging in the Tomsk Region, the most affected area of Russia, has decreased significantly, with seven fires out of 29 extinguished as of Wednesday morning, the regional Deputy Governor Igor Shaturny said on Thursday.
About 4,450 people and 679 firefighting units are tacking the fires, Shaturny said.
The fires also affected the local wildlife, forcing bears to flee from the woods to the residential areas in the Tomsk Region, the head of the regional natural resources watchdog Alexander Adam said.
“Animals are like people. Imagine a village hit by a fire. One of the residents’ homes burns down, so he searches for a place to live. He asks the neighbors to let him in. It is called internal migration. The mammal needs to find a home as the winter approaches,” Adam said.
Valery Surnayev from the regional environmental organization told RIA Novosti that despite the fires the bears remain calm, adding that the animals are likely to become more aggressive in the fall because they will run out of food in the devastated forestry.
In 2010 Russia faced rampant wildfires and a massive drought that claimed 62 lives and ruined the crops, forcing the country to impose a ban on grain exports.