Wildfires raging in Russia’s Ural Mountains killed at least 21 people and hospitalized several others, state news agency TASS reported on Thursday, quoting officials.
The deaths and injuries were reported in the Kurgan region, on the border between the Urals and Siberia. It is one of 12 regions where the danger of fires remains “extremely high,” according to TASS.
Emergency teams have said the death toll may increase.
As of Wednesday, more than 80 fires were active over an area of 113,500 hectares (280,000 acres) in the regions of the Ural Federal District, according to TASS.
Nearly 800 local residents have been evacuated, TASS reported.
“Wildfires have engulfed several settlements in Ural. The situation has become complicated,” said the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Alexander Kurenkov on Monday as he traveled to the Kurgan region, according to TASS.
The European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said on Wednesday that seasonal fire activity started in the region in April, but has ramped up this month.
Its data shows active fires burning from Russia’s Chelyabinsk region across Omsk and Novosibirsk regions to Primorye in the far east, and also affecting neighboring countries of Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
“The scale and intensity of the current fires are reflecting increased fire risk following some weeks of drier than usual conditions,” said Mark Parrington, senior scientist at Copernicus, in a statement.
While wildfires in the region are not particularly unusual in spring, he added, the organization will “continue to monitor these conditions as we approach summer when the boreal fire season starts to reach its peak.”
Russia has been experiencing wildfires that are more intense and more frequent, something experts have linked to the climate crisis.
In 2021, fires burned through 18.8 million hectares (46 million acres) of forest as temperatures in Siberia soared, according to Greenpeace Russia.