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Death Toll From Russian Wildfires Raised To 48


Servicemen taking part in fighting forest and peat fires rest in a forest near the town of Gus-Khrustalny in Russia's Vladimir region on August 2.

Servicemen taking part in fighting forest and peat fires rest in a forest near the town of Gus-Khrustalny in Russia's Vladimir region on August 2.

Russian officials say the death toll from weeks of wildfires that have wiped out forests and villages in western Russia has risen to 48.

The Emergency Ministry, which insisted for weeks that the fires were being contained, has now admitted that some fires are out of control.

Hundreds of new fires are being spotted every day as overworked firefighters race to extinguish the blazes. More than 500 major fires are reported in central Russia alone.

One forest fire destroyed a naval logistics base at Kolomna, outside Moscow -- torching aeronautical equipment, aircraft, buildings, and vehicles.

Russia is suffering its worst heat wave since records began, pushing forest and peat fires across stretches of central and western regions.

Tens of thousands of troops and volunteers are helping some 10,000 firefighters in more than a dozen western Russian provinces -- seven of which are under a state of emergency.

A state agency that monitors air quality levels issued a warning for residents of Moscow today, saying smoke and pollution in the Russian capital is now at the worst level in eight years.

compiled from agency reports
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