An "invasion" of polar bears has prompted officials to
declare a state of emergency in Russia's Arctic Novaya Zemlya
archipelago, local media reported on Saturday.
The bears had begun gathering near human settlements in the archipelago in the Arkhangelsk region in December, the news agency TASS reported, with at least 52 spotted near the settlement of Belushya Guba.
Between six and ten bears were permanently on the settlement's territory and there had been cases of bears attacking people and entering residential buildings and offices, it wrote. "The emergency situation was caused by the mass invasion of polar bears in residential areas," the Archangelsk governor and regional government said in a statement. "Residents, schools and kindergartens are submitting numerous oral and written complaints demanding to ensure safety in the settlement.
"The people are scared. They are frightened to leave homes and their daily routines are broken. Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten." Extra fences had been installed near kindergartens and special vehicles were being used to take military personnel and employees to work, according to TASS. But it said the bears had not been put off by signals used to scare them away, or by patrol cars and dogs.
An expert team has been sent to the archipelago to prevent them from attacking people but Russia's environmental watchdog has refused to issue licences to shoot the bears, which are an endangered species. Melting Arctic ice has increasingly caused the animals to migrate further south in search of food on land.
"I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity," TASS quoted local leader Zhigansha Musin as saying. "If a cull is banned, we will have to embark on a longer and less safe way for local residents," he added. "A total of 50 polar bears are near the human settlements so we have loads of work ahead."
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