Russian battle against fires continues, further casualties reported
Russians continued to battle thousands of fires around their country on Monday as further deaths were reported in the worst forest and peat fires the country has seen in decades.
According to Interfax, head of the national emergency centre, Vladimir Stepanov, said there were some 7,000 fires of varying size burning around the country, DPA reported.
Stepanov said about 500,000 hectares of land were currently ablaze.
By official count, the death toll so far in the fires is 34, while hundreds of people have been injured and thousands have been rendered homeless as entire villages were burned to the ground.
On Monday, rescue workers recovered five bodies from the ruins of a house which burned down in the worst-hit region of Nizhny Novgorod.
In both Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, Russian soldiers had begun to lay down water pipelines to help in the battle against the fires.
Besides the extreme heat and dry spell - the worst recorded in more than 130 years - which caused the initial conditions for the fires, authorities are now reporting the first arrests of arsonists and looters.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was due later Monday to hold an emergency meeting in Moscow with the governors of the regions worst affected. Over the weekend, officials in 14 regins declared a state of emergency.
In Moscow itself, the city was enveloped Monday in thick fog.
Meteorologists were warning that no relief was in sight, with temperatures in Moscow expected to go beyond 40 degrees Celsius by the end of the week.