Moscow: A fire raging dangerously close to Russia`s main nuclear research centre expanded as firefighters battled to cut back hundreds of blazes across the country.
The emergencies ministry said that over 500 fires covering just under 65,000 hectares (160,000 acres) of land were still ablaze across Russia, down 15,000 hectares from the day earlier, in a crisis that has already left 54 dead.
Russian has sent thousands of firefighters to a nature reserve near the country`s top nuclear research centre in Sarov, a town still closed to foreigners as in Soviet times, and officials warned a fire was gaining in area.
"The fire which appeared in the eastern part of the nature reserve two days ago after lightning struck a pine tree has grown in size and now presents a certain danger," the head of the emergencies ministry for the Mordovia region, Major General Vyacheslav Kormilitsyn, said in a statement.
The fire had grown to an area of 1,000 hectares, the local emergencies ministry said in a statement on its website. The fire is in a nature reserve in the district of the village of Popovka, 17 kilometres (10 miles) southeast of Sarov.
"At the current time, efforts are being made to contain the fire within its existing limits and contain it," Kormilitsyn added, saying that 2,600 people and 200 pieces of equipment were being used to extinguish the blazes.
second fire in the nature reserve -- in the district of the village of Pushta, 21 kilometres (13 miles) southwest of Sarov -- is smaller at 200 hectares and has been contained, the ministry added.