Around 30 people are now feared dead in forest fires ravaging central Russia.
Emergency services continue to tackle the flames, but it is an almost impossible task. Sweltering since June, Russia is in the grip of its hottest heatwave for 130 years. Combined with strong winds, the wildfires consume almost everything in their path.
Russia’s premier Vladmir Putin has flown to the region to show just how seriously the Kremlin is taking the situation.
Speaking to President Medvedev on the phone, Putin said: “I have visited some places, to see how things are, how the wounded are being treated, talked to people. The situation is very serious.”
In reply, Medvedev said:’‘You are right in asking for army involvement. I will authorise it. So, let them take part in the rescue effort in any way possible. I will call the defence minister straight away.’‘
The fires have incinerated hundreds of wooden homes, forcing thousands of people to flee with only the clothes on their back.
“We have lost everything. A computer, which belonged to my granddaughter, everything we had in the house, fur coats, all of our clothes,” one woman said.
“The only thing left are these rubber shoes,” said a man. “It took only 20 minutes. It (the house) blazed up like a match. It has not rained for two months.”
A think layer of smoke was also floating over the central city of Voronezh. Like many urban areas in Russia, the record temperatures have raised pollution levels ten times beyond normal safety levels.