Russian army called in to tackle forest fires

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Russian army called in to tackle forest fires

Russian army called in to tackle forest fires
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President Medvedev has called in the army to tackle forest fires which have raged across parts of central Russia. Latest reports say the number killed has risen to more than twenty.

The bodies of six people were found in one village near Moscow which had been devastated by fire the previous day.

As the heatwave continued, Vladimir Putin flew to Nizhny Novgorod, one of the affected regions where more than 500 homes have been destroyed.

Local people wanted guarantees from the government.

“All the houses will be rebuilt by winter, I promise your village will be restored,” said the prime minister to reassure one woman who asked for federal help. He went on to pledge money to the region to build new homes. 100,000 roubles per person (around 2500 euros) would be paid.

Earlier residents fought flames with buckets of water as neighbours scrambled to rescue their possessions from burning houses.

“The air was hot. I shouted to my neighbour- run away, take your phone and a passport and run away,” said one woman, obviously distressed.

Another woman, using a scarf as a mask, said the emergency services were overrun. “The forest was ablaze, we called the fire brigade,” she said. “They replied ‘there’s no fire engine, do it yourselves’.”

Temperatures have approached 40 degrees in recent days, with strong winds spreading the fires even more rapidly.

Moscow, which has recorded its hottest day on record, is also battling air pollution which is several times the usual level.