THE world’s "loneliest woman" has been saved from a major fire that engulfed her historic hermit hut in remote Siberia.
Agafya Lykova, 77, is sole survivor of a family that fled into the wilderness in 1936 to escape Stalin's death squads.
She was born in the wooden hut and has lived there all her life, only recently accepting occasional help from wellwishers in her old age.
Volunteers had just left her by boat after helping with preparations for the harsh winter when they saw flames engulfing the roof.
They sped back to save her and also stopped the blaze spreading to her new timber home, provided this year by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
“The volunteers rushed back to extinguish the fire, which engulfed the hermit's old house and barn,” reported Life.
“The volunteers managed to save Agafia's new house from the fire, to which she had moved this spring.
“Agafya herself was not hurt.”
Her animals also survived unscathed, they told the authorities by satellite phone from her remote outpost.
The blaze is believed to have been caused by a candle.
Her new one-storey home had to be flown in piece by piece to her remote mountainside, which she refuses to leave despite winter temperatures as low as minus 50C.
It was assembled close to her old tumbledown but historic hut, which was built by her father and brothers after the family went into hiding.
They fled religious persecution as members of the Old Believers, who split from the Orthodox Church in 1666.
Agafya was the fourth child of Karp and Akulina Lykov, and for the first 35 years of her life she had no contact at all with anyone outside her family.
The remained undetected for 40 years, living as self-sufficient peasants living off the land, until they were spotted by geologists in a helicopter on a mission over the Western Sayan mountains.
Agafya's mother died in 1961, her father died in 1988.
She refuses to move to a town or city, the nearest of which is 150 miles from her scenic mountainside where she shuns modern comforts.
Authorities have taken special measures to protect her from Covid as she rarely has contact with anyone.
Several members of her family died of infections caught from visitors during Soviet times.
But last year an influencer was slammed for putting the hermit's life at risk by hiring a helicopter to fly her in so she could hug her and take a selfie.
“We all take extreme care when visiting Agafya,” explained local official Alexander, who for years has made occasional trips to check on her well-being in territory where bears and wolves roam.
“Virus or no virus – she is like a Mowgli who has never come across modern day infections and diseases.
“We know how disciplined and cautious we must be in making sure she stays safe.”
Last month we told how another hermit, 70-year-old Panta Pertrovic, had left his tiny cave in Siberia for the first time in 20 years to get a Covid jab.
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