MOSCOW (AP) – The death toll from wildfires in Russia’s Ural Mountains rose to 21 on Tuesday, Russian state news agency Tass reported, citing local emergency service agencies.
Wildfires have raged in the Kurgan region of the Urals and in Siberia all week.
A resident of western Siberia’s Tyumen province died while attempting to extinguish a fire.
According to local authorities, most of the deaths occurred on Sunday in the Kurgan province village of Yuldus, which is located on the border between the Ural Mountains and Siberia.
“The death toll may increase,” regional emergency service officials said. A state of emergency was introduced in the province, where more than 5,000 buildings burnt down.
Fires also have engulfed thousands of hectares in Sverdlovsk province, and in Siberia’s Omsk and Tyumen provinces.
During a Monday visit to Kurgan province, Russia’s emergency situations minister said settlements were no longer at risk from the blazes, though local media reported on Tuesday that fires still burnt there, as well as in Sverdlovsk and Tyumen.
In recent years, Russia has experienced especially widespread forest fires, which experts blamed on unusually dry summers and high temperatures.
The experts also cited a 2007 decision to disband a federal aviation network tasked with spotting and combatting fires.