Moscow: Fresh wildfires have destroyed over 500 buildings leaving five people dead and more than 1,000 homeless in Russia's Volga regions of Volgograd, Saratov and Samara.
In Volgograd, where wildfires were triggered by short-circuiting of high-tension power lines in a hurricane, five people were killed and 450 buildings were destroyed, ITAR-TASS reported.
NTV said that due to massive fire-fighting operation, with the involvement of two special aircraft, the blaze was mostly put-off in Volgograd region, where 20 villages were hit by the wildfires spreading through dry burning grass in temperature above 40 degree Celsius.
According to Pavel Popov, the deputy chief of disaster management agency EMERCOM, over 15,000 homes were under threat from wildfires rapidly advancing due to strong gales of wind in Volgograd and Saratov region, of which 400 were destroyed.
Popov said a special fire-fighting group consisting of 3,000 men and 300 machines was set up and with the assistance of aircraft most of the hotspots have been localised.
President Dmitry Medvedev, who in Baku on a visit to Azerbaijan, was constantly briefed on the situation by Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Kremlin said.
Medvedev also ordered Russian Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin to "organise soonest rebuilding of houses and payment of compensations to those affected," Kremlin spokeswoman Natalia Timakova said.
Quoting officials in Volgograd, ITAR-TASS reported that by the morning fires have been either doused or localised in all the villages and townships of Volgograd region.
"The most complex situation remains in Rudnya district, but it is under control. A forest is ablaze just 10 km from Rudnya. All efforts are being made to contain it," EMERCOM official told the agency.
Eyewitnesses said the village of Alexandrovka in Volgograd Region's Zhirnovsky district was almost totally destroyed.
"Almost the whole village was burned. It was hell. It has still not all been extinguished," one witness was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
Fire has spread to the neighbouring Saratov Region, where a total of seven wildfires were detected in six districts.
A total of 14 houses and more than a dozen of other buildings were destroyed, but no casualties have been reported.
Due to abnormal dry and hot summer this year, most of the European parts of Russia, including Moscow witnessed unprecedented wildfires and destruction in July and August, which could be controlled only after change of weather and rains in the third week of August.
First Published: Friday, September 03, 2010, 15:13