Wildfires extend grip in western Russia, 28 killed

السبت 1431/8/19 هـ الموافق 2010/07/31 م واس
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VORONEZH, Russia, July 31, 2010, SPA --Raging forest fires spread across parts of western Russia on Saturday, engulfing 30 percent more territory in just 24 hours, although officials said they were making some progress in fighting back the flames, according to Reuters.
At least 28 people have been killed and 3,500 evacuated as fires raged in the hottest weather since records began 130 years ago. At least 1,260 houses have been burned.
President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the army to help tackle the fires in the European portion of Russia, after the hot spell ruined crops and pushed thousands of farmers to the verge of bankruptcy.
Drought in some parts of Russia, one of the world's biggest wheat exporters, has sent global prices soaring to year highs.
By Saturday, the area swept by peat and forest fires rose to more than 1,200 km sq from just over 850 km sq a day earlier, the emergencies ministry said.
However, it said the overall situation was largely under control in Nizhny Novgorod, one of the worst affected regions, some 500 km (300 miles) south of Moscow.
Sizzling temperatures -- around 40 degrees Celsius (104.00F) in some areas -- have parched vast areas of Russia's agricultural land.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cancelled meetings on Friday to fly to the Nizhny Novgorod region. He ordered his government to allocate 5 billion roubles ($165 million) to help victims.
--SPA
15:07 LOCAL TIME 12:07 GMT