Fires sweep through Siberian villages

MOSCOW - Out-of-control agricultural fires have killed at least 15 people, injured hundreds more and destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes in Siberia, authorities said on Monday.

The fires were started in Khakassia, a region in southeastern Siberia, by farmers burning the grass in their fields, but spread quickly because of strong winds.

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

The local health ministry said on Monday that 15 people including a child have been confirmed dead and 393 people were injured.

The fires have left 5,000 people homeless and it will take about 5 billion rubles ($94 million) to rebuild housing in the area, the region’s chief, Viktor Zimin said in televised comments.

By early morning the fires in all 38 villages in the area had been put out with the help of aircraft and 6,000 firefighters, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said, adding that rescue workers will remain in the area to clear the debris.

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