By Dow Jones Newswires
The death toll from Russia’s forest and peat fires hit 50 Thursday, as government efforts failed to stop the blazes from spreading.
Continued scorching temperatures have also extended the damage caused by Russia’s worst drought in a decade, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for a ban on grain exports and set aside nearly $1.2 billion for stricken farmers.
The total area on fire increased to 196,000 hectares Thursday, a gain of around 7,000 hectares from the previous day, as 373 new fires appeared and 254 were extinguished, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.
In all, 589 separate blazes were burning throughout Russia, 70 more than Wednesday, despite 162,000 emergency workers deployed to fight the flames. The fires have consumed over 2,000 dwellings and left around 4,000 people homeless, while causing an estimated RUB4.6 billion of damage.
Record heat persisted throughout Russia’s European territory, with temperatures in Moscow expected to hit 40 degrees Celsius Friday, nearly double the seasonal average of 23 degrees.