Death toll from Russian wildfires rises to 48: ministry

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The death toll from forest fires raging across central Russia has risen to at least 48, as some 400 new blazes broke out over the past 24 hours, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Wednesday.

"Eight bodies were found under the debris of burnt houses -- three in the Moscow region, two in the Nizhny Novgorod region, and one each in the Voronezh, Ryazan and Ivanovo regions," the ministry was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

The ministry said that 403 new forest fires had sparked up over the past 24 hours, and so far a total of 813 fires continued burning over an area of 188,500 hectares.

Russian Prosecutor General's Office Wednesday filed a lawsuit on negligence charges against local officials in the Nizhny Novgorod region, where at least 21 persons died and 1,400 others have been left homeless.

Temperatures across much of western and central Russia hit 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in the past five weeks, triggering forest fires and the worst drought in the country since 1972.

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