Russia battles deadly new wildfires in eastern Siberia

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Sarah Rainsford says that the fires have destroyed large areas of farmland

New wildfires are spreading in eastern Siberia, while further west the death toll from similar blazes has risen to 23, Russian officials say.

The worst-hit region is Khakassia, in southern Siberia, where 23 died. About 500 people are in hospital.

Reports say the Khakassia fires have been put out now, but about 1,300 homes were incinerated.

High winds are fanning the flames in Russia's Zabaikal region, in the east, where another three people have died.

Acrid smoke from the fires has blanketed the city of Chita, Russia's Vesti TV news reports (in Russian), with visibility reduced to 200-300m (660-990ft). Residents have been advised to keep windows closed and reduce the time they spend outdoors.

Firefighting aircraft have been sent to Zabaikal, where 86 blazes have been reported, affecting an area of 24,000ha (59,280 acres). The fires have spread to an area about 60km (37 miles) from Chita.

At one point a blaze approached an arms dump near Chita, but Russian officials later denied that there was any threat of explosions there.

Officials say the wildfires began when farmers burned grass in their fields - a traditional practice - but some blazes got out of control amid dry, warm weather and high winds. However, they do not rule out that arsonists may have started some fires.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some rural settlements in Khakassia are now just charred debris
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Officials say the fires that ravaged much of the Khakassia region have been extinguished

Related Topics

More on this story