World

Official: Death toll from Russian wildfires reaches 34, but blazes shrinking by the day

Aug. 1: People carry icons during a religious procession in front of the ruins of burnt out houses after a forest raged out of control in a suburb of the town of Voronezh some 294 miles south of Moscow.

Aug. 1: People carry icons during a religious procession in front of the ruins of burnt out houses after a forest raged out of control in a suburb of the town of Voronezh some 294 miles south of Moscow.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's Emergencies Ministry says 34 people are known to have died in the recent wave of wildfires, which have destroyed hundreds of homes but are thought to be slowly dying down.

Vladimir Stepanov, who heads the Emergencies Ministry's crisis response center, said in televised comments that nationwide 500 new fires had been registered in the past 24 hours, but most of them were immediately doused.

Officials over the weekend said 28 people had died in the fires, which by Sunday were engulfing an area equivalent to 316,000 acres (128,000 hectares). Stepanov said Monday the number had shrunk by a further 7,000 acres.

About 1,500 homes have been wiped out as fires have torn through Central and Western Russia, boosted by a record heat wave that has dried forests and fields to a crisp.