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Russia fires: Death toll rises to 48

Fires that have wiped out Russian forests, villages and a military base sent the thickest blanket of smog yet over Moscow yesterday, as emergency officials said the death toll had reached 48.

Passengers on Moscow's subway said a haze was hovering above platforms, stinging the eyes and throat, as City Hall warned of health risks from the smoke carrying harmful gases including carbon monoxide.

Firefighters have extinguished 293 fires, but another 403 were spotted in the last 24 hours while more than 500 continue to rage over large swathes of countryside, the Emergencies Ministry said in a statement.

Russia is suffering its worst heatwave on record, helping to ignite forest and bog fires across stretches of central and western regions. Dry winds have sent clouds of smog from peat bog fires over Moscow, but today's was the thickest yet, with the haze obscuring the capital's landmarks and penetrating the subway system. Tens of thousands of troops and volunteers are helping 10,000 firefighters battle blazes in more than a dozen western provinces of the country.

Moscow weather officials released a statement cautioning the city's 10 million residents to guard themselves against the smoke, saying pollution indicators reached a “critical barrier” overnight and “even healthy people must take preventative measures”.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said some wildfires are out of control, contradicting days of reassurances from other officials that the situation was under control.

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