2 Aug 2010

Wildfires rage on as Russians brace for more hot days

9:33 pm on 2 August 2010

Firefighters in Russia are battling several new wildfires as temperatures in parts of the country approach 40 degrees Celsius.

At least 30 people have died in the fires in recent days and officials say 14 out of the country's 83 regions are now affected, the BBC reports.

Firefighters reduced the nationwide area of fire from 129,000 hectares to 114,000 hectares on Saturday, the government said. But more new fires erupted than were extinguished, and about 440 were still burning on Sunday.

Thousands of people have lost their homes and last week saw 28 deaths.

Nearly a quarter of a million emergency workers have been deployed to fight the flames with the help of hundreds of soldiers.

More famous for its bitterly cold winters, the giant country's European part normally enjoys short, warm summers. The number of fires recorded this year is only about 20% higher than in 2009, according to Russian emergencies ministry data.

However, this July was the hottest month on record, with Moscow, which sees an average high of 23 degrees Celsius in summer, sweltering in 37.8 degree heat last Thursday.

Temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius are forecast for central and southern Russia this week.