At least eight people have died in fires in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk in eastern Russia where flames have ripped through villages and high winds have hampered efforts to extinguish the blazes.
Due to the ferocity of the wildfires, the Krasnoyarsk region has declared a state of emergency.
Fires have spread to several villages in 12 districts of the region, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Saturday citing the regional disaster management agency.
Three people, including two children, were reported to have died in fires in the village of Talashanka, about 200 kilometres (124 miles) north of the major city of Krasnoyarsk, and two people were killed in the village of Nikolsk, 300 kilometres (186 miles) west of Krasnoyarsk.
Investigators in the Kemerovo region said the burned bodies of three people were found in a residential building in the Tyazhinsky locality, where more than 50 houses had caught fire.
In the Omsk region, two people died.
Burning homes and farm buildings were reported in numerous other localities.
Krasnoyarsk regional governor Alexandre Uss said high winds of up to 40 metres per second (131 feet per second) had brought down trees and power lines across large swaths of the region, sparking the fires which authorities said 300 firefighters backed by 90 vehicles were battling.
We have called for help from neighbouring territories, but are aware that will, in the best case, not arrive for some hours,” Uss said.
Temporary shelters are being opened for people in the worst-hit areas with medical and psychological support units also being made available.
“I have given the order to cut off electricity in part of the region – save for survival facilities, service stations and water supply systems,” he said.
“Extinguishing [the fires] is being complicated by meteorological conditions – violent winds are fanning the flames and preventing them from being put out,” the regional ministry for emergencies said on Telegram.
Aircraft cannot be used in fighting the fires due to the high wind load,” Krasnoyarsk’s emergencies service said on its Telegram channel.
It posted video footage showing the sky darkened by smoke, with rescue workers buffeted by strong gusts as they tackled a number of blazes in rural areas with predominantly wooden buildings.
The Federal Forestry Agency said short circuits in power lines had caused 350 houses to catch fire, and that strong winds had exacerbated the situation, the TASS news agency reported.
Roman Vilfand, of Russia’s Hydrometeorological Research Centre, told the TASS news agency that such fires were rare in the month of May.
“But there hasn’t been rain for a long time, there were fires, and then strong wind,” he said.
Forest-rich Siberia has suffered from unprecedented fires for several years. Last year, they belched 16 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, according to an annual European climate report.