Russia wildfires death toll rises to 34: ministry

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The death toll from the worst summer wildfires to hit Russia in a generation has risen to 34, the emergencies ministry said on Monday, as the authorities pressed on with their battle to quell the flames.

"According to current information, 34 people have been killed as a result of the fires," Vladimir Stepanov, the head of national centre for crisis management at the emergencies ministry, said according to Interfax.

The previous death toll had stood at 30.

The emergencies ministry has deployed hundreds of thousands of workers along with 2,000 members of the armed forces to fight a disaster described by President Dmitry Medvedev as of the kind that "happens every 30 or 40 years."

The worst-hit regions have included the area around the city of Nizhny Novgorod in central Russia, where several more bodies were found on Sunday, officials said, as well as the Moscow region itself.

Moscow itself was again blanketed Monday in a heavy fog of smoke generated from peat fires burning in the countryside around the city.

A country notorious for its bitterly cold winters, Russia is enduring its severest heatwave for decades which has seen all-time temperature records tumble throughout July.

The emergencies ministry has said around 128,000 hectares (316,000 acres) of land is on fire around the country but has claimed the situation is now under control even if the dangers remain high.

© 2010 AFP

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