Moscow: Raging forest fires encircled a southern Russian city and tore through provincial villages, forcing mass evacuations as Moscow suffered through a record, weeks-long heat wave and smog cloud caused by peat-bog fires.
Some 212,506 acres (86,000 hectares) were burning nationwide, and flames all but encircled the city of Voronezh, 300 miles southeast of Moscow yesterday.
Forest fires on Moscow`s outskirts reached the city`s western fringe, in the Krylatskoye district, but were extinguished toward nightfall.
State television pictures showed the evacuation by ambulance of a Voronezh city hospital. Channel One said more than 800 patients were transferred to other facilities as flames approached the city`s outskirts and thick smoke lowered visibility.
Hundreds of children were evacuated from at least seven summer camps, according to the regional Emergencies Ministry website.
Distraught locals were shown next to their burning homes, with one elderly man peering into the camera and asking "Where are we to live now?" Over his head, plumes of thick black smoke sailed toward the city centre. There, the few locals on the streets were shown holding handkerchiefs to their mouths, and stooping to cough.
Hundreds of homes in surrounding villages burned to the ground, the ministry said. The Interfax news agency reported that the 340 homes were destroyed in a village near Nizhny Novgorod, around 250 miles east of Moscow.
There were no reports of casualties.