Death toll rises as Russian wildfires spread
The death toll from the worst wildfires in Russia's modern history rose to 50 on Thursday as the authorities failed to prevent the area ablaze from increasing further, officials said.
New fires were appearing faster than the emergency services could put out the old ones as the total area on fire nationwide increased by around 7,000 hectares to 196,000 hectares, the emergencies ministry said.
The death toll rose to 50 after a corpse was found in a burned-down house in the Nizhny Novgorod region and another victim died in hospital in the Voronezh region, Russian news agencies quoted the ministry as saying.
"In the course of the last 24 hours, 373 fires have appeared and 254 have been extinguished. As a result there are now 589 wildfires burning in Russia covering an area of 196,000 hectares," it said.
According to the ministry, 162,000 emergency workers were were deployed to douse the fires.
With the situation escalating, President Dmitry Medvedev has warned Russia's top two naval commanders and sacked a number of high-ranking officers for failing to prevent a wildfire spreading to a military base last week.
Moscow had throughout Wednesday been hit by a thick smog from the wildfires that experts warned was dangerous for the health of the public but the situation had eased Thursday morning with visibility sharply improved.
© 2010 AFP