Wildfires are threatening more than 200 villages in the Russian regions of Voronezh, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, as well as in the republic of Mordovia, the head of the National Center for Crisis Situations said on Saturday.
According to the Emergencies Ministry's figures on Saturday morning, some 121,500 hectares of forest are burning. There are also 18 peat bog fires, 9 of which are in the Central Federal District. Over the last 24 hours, over 1,000 homes have been destroyed and entire villages burned to the ground in the largest wildfire ever to hit the European part of Russia.
"Since July 29, in the Nizhny Novgorod region alone 575 homes were burned to the ground and 1,500 people were evacuated," Vladimir Stepanov told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Emergencies Ministry's Situation Room.
An emergency situation has been announced in 14 regions in Russia. Thousands of people have been left homeless.
"All together in the Volga Federal District, 625 homes have burned, in Voronezh - more than 200 homes have burned and more than 1,000 people have been evacuated," Stepanov continued.
He said because of the dry and windy weather more than 22,000 hotspots had been registered in the regions.
Stepanov added that nearly 240,000 people are battling the wildfires and that 25,000 pieces of equipment are being used throughout the regions, including all of the Emergencies Ministry's airplanes and helicopters. He also said that military personnel have joined in with the ministry to extinguish the fires.
Temperatures across much of western and central Russia have topped 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) during the past five weeks, causing peat bog and forest fires and creating what is thought to be the worst drought since 1972.
MOSCOW, July 31 (RIA Novosti)