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July 31, 2010

Wildfires Continue to Rage Across Parts of Russia

Wildfires continue to rage across Russia as the country experiences the worst heat wave in more than a century. At least 30 people have died, and more than 1,200 dwellings have burned to the ground.

Russian emergency officials say firefighters are engaged in an uphill battle as blazes continue across Russia and temperatures remain hovering near the hundred-degree mark.

The Kremlin has deployed hundreds of thousands of firefighters and volunteers, in an attempt to keep the fires under control, but emergency officials say that it is difficult due to the high temperatures and shifting winds

Fires in the Far-East region have grown three times, in size, in the past 24 hours, according to the region's forestry department. One of the hardest hit is the remote Kamchatka peninsula.

State television footage has shown complete villages that have burned to the ground while fires continue to billow huge plumes of smoke into the air.

A resident of Kazan, Lyudmila Romanova, says her family's health has been affected.

She says her seven-month-old granddaughter has started to have breathing problems due to the thick smoke, but that her grandson is more or less okay.

Voronezh, some 300 miles south of Moscow, was one of the hardest-hit regions. Officials say that nearly 600 people have been left homeless due to the flames.

Igor Vlaznev, head of the region's fire-fighter's unit, says the situation remains very tense. He says that everyone is praying to God, day and night, for rain to fall. He says it is the only thing that will help.

Weather forecasters say that temperatures are expected to remain near the century mark for the next few days, with no rain in sight.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described the situation as very difficult, chided the authorities for not doing more to prevent damage, and fire those who do not do their part to get the blazes under control.

Mr. Putin also promised that all of the destroyed homes would be rebuilt by October after pledging more than $150 million towards the rebuilding effort.