Raging forest fires are spreading across parts of western Russia.
Twenty-eight people are now known to have died and 3,500 people have been forced to abandon their homes.
President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered in the army to help douse the wildfires. The emergencies ministry insists the situation is under control but that is little consolation to those whose properties have been consumed by the flames.
One man, trying to salvage belongings said: “When we arrived the fence was on fire, and the flames and wind were so strong that we couldn’t come near for around 20 minutes. First we tried to put out the fire and then we started to grab a few things like important documents. We managed to save some things, then the police and firemen told us to keep clear.”
Scorching temperatures have parched vast areas of agricultural land, ruining crops and pushing farmers to the verge of bankruptcy, but in the forests, peat fires are the biggest cause for concern.
Villagers have formed their own firefighting teams.
One of them said: “We’re always on our guard, monitoring whether the fire has restarted. All around this little forest… once we see a bit of smoke, we throw earth on it.”
Families living in the path of approaching fires have made preparations to flee at short notice.
One woman said: “Here’s our car and we’ve put our things in it. Everything we can, obviously not everything we possess, just the most necessary. And we’re ready to leave in a second if the fire gets close.”
As many people pray for deliverance from the advancing fires the weather forecasters are not holding out much hope.
Temperatures are set stay much as they are with no sign of rain on the horizon.