Death toll in Siberia wildfire rises to 15

Death toll in Siberia wildfire rises to 15
Women walk near the debris of burnt buildings in the settlement of Shyra, damaged by recent wildfires, in Khakassia region.

MOSCOW - Fifteen people died and more than 460 sought medical treatment after wildfires caused by warm temperatures and high winds swept through southern Siberia, authorities said on Monday.

A total of 468 were hurt and 77 people were hospitalised in the region of Khakassia in southeastern Siberia where fires raged on Sunday, a spokeswoman for the regional authorities said.

Of the hospitalised eight were in a critical condition, said spokeswoman Irina Emelianova, adding that one person was still missing.

"The temperature on Sunday was 25 degrees Celsius and there were also storm winds," she told AFP.

"This combination caused the fires," she added.

"We have never had this before." More than 30 villages have been affected, she added.

Authorities said the region sustained "huge damage" as a result of the blazes.

At least 700 cattle and some 3,000 sheep had perished, they said in a statement.

Authorities said they were concerned that the cattle that survived had nowhere to graze now. "Tens of square kilometres of land have been burned," said the statement.

The authorities had at first blamed the fire on farmers burning dry grass.

Spring and autumn burning of dry grass in Russia regularly results in massive wildfires that often cause extensive damage to homes and human life.

Wildfires in 2010 killed at least 60 people, destroyed over 3,000 homes and left Moscow shrouded in smoke. In 2012, fire destroyed 10 million hectares of Siberian forest, according to environmental groups.

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