MOSCOW (AP) — Eight Russian firefighters have been killed in a massive forest fire in southern Siberia near the border with Mongolia, forestry officials said Thursday.
The Federal Forestry Agency said the victims were part of a team of 14 who parachuted in to extinguish a blaze that was raging across the forested Sayan mountains in the Tyva region.
The agency said a sudden change of wind Wednesday could have caused the blaze to spread and trapped the firemen. It said the other six managed to get out of the burning forest, and one of them was hospitalized in a serious condition with heavy burns.
Officials said the victims were highly skilled professionals with years of experience in combating forest blazes.
Forest blazes have rapidly spread across the region this week, blanketing the regional capital, Kyzyl, with smoke and halting traffic on a major highway.
The agency said 14 forest fires are currently raging in the Tyva region, covering an area of 4,570 hectares (11,290 acres). It said nearly 200 firefighters backed by four aircraft are battling the blazes.
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