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15 killed as fires ravage villages

At least 15 people have been killed and hundreds of others injured by out-of-control agricultural fires in Siberia, Russian authorities have said.

More than 1,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the fires, which were started by farmers burning grass in their fields but spread quickly because of strong winds.

The health ministry in Khakassia, a region in south-eastern Siberia, said 15 people including a child have been confirmed dead and 393 people injured.

Emergency officials said they have put out the fires in all 38 villages in the area with the help of aircraft and 6,000 firefighters.

The region's chief, Viktor Zimin, said in televised remarks that it would take about 5 billion rubles (£63.7 million) to rebuild housing in the area.

"This fire would not have happened if people were not playing with matches," Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Alexander Chupriyan said in a statement. "And it wasn't children, but adults."

Mr Chupriyan said dozens of homes burn down in Russia every year because of farmers burning grass.

Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said rescue workers would remain in the area to clear debris.


From Belfast Telegraph