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At least nine killed as forest fires rage in eastern Ukraine

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A total of 146 fires were recorded in Luhansk region on Wednesday.
A total of 146 fires were recorded in Luhansk region on Wednesday.   -   Copyright  State Service of Ukraine for Emergencies
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At least nine people have died and fourteen more hospitalised after a number of forest fires swept through Ukraine's eastern region of Luhansk, according to authorities.

As many as 120 people have also been evacuated from villages in the area, the emergency services said in a statement on Thursday.

Local authorities said they recorded a total of 146 fires in the region, which have destroyed around 250 buildings and spread across 93 square kilometres.

At least 22 villages could be affected by the flames, which have been aggravated by "extremely difficult weather conditions" and hurricane gusts of up to 70 km/h, they added.

Most of the fires are located near the area controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Authorities said the city of Severodonetsk is not presently at risk from the blazes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office called on authorities to find the cause of the fires.

"The reasons for such a large-scale spread of fire must be clearly established," the office said in a statement.

A government delegation has flown to the scene of the fires in the Luhansk region to help coordinate the response.

Earlier this year, forest fires spread near the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant in the north of the country but were brought under full control by emergency services.