Russian emergency officials say a massive blaze has swept through the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, leaving scores of people injured and burning dozens of houses.

The fire that erupted Monday at a wooden house in the center of Rostov-on-Don, a city of 1.1 million, quickly engulfed neighboring buildings. Desperate residents rushed to contain it before fire teams arrived.

Hundreds of firefighters backed by several helicopters worked for hours to contain the blaze. Health officials said about 40 people were injured, with several of them hospitalized.

Russian media cited residents alleging that the fire could have been set by arsonists at the behest of local real estate developers who were eager to obtain prized land in the city center. The regional governor and local prosecutors promised to investigate the claim.