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Russia burns as wildfires spread

Death toll rises to 25 as people flee the flames.

AT LEAST TWENTY-FIVE people have been killed in escalating forest fires in central Russia, including three firemen. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in the worst heatwave to strike the country in over 130 years.

The fires have spread through woods scorched dry by the heatwave and have destroyed hundreds of wooden houses in the countryside.

These drivers made a lucky escape as the blaze spread across their path:

Thousands of people in Moscow have been driven to exteme measures to escape the continuing heatwave, which began over two months ago. Around 2,000 people have drowned in rivers and lakes as they attempted to cool off.

Record-breaking temperatures were reached in the capital this week, but heavy rain is forecast to fall on Moscow today which could ease the cover of smog surrounding the city and help the city to cool down.

President Medvedev has reportedly sent members of the government out to assess the areas affected by the fires. Earlier, he tweeted that the ministry of defence is being deployed to tackle the blaze.

Here are photos from the fires and the heatwave:

Russia burns as wildfires spread
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  • Russia Heatwave

    A firefighter extinguishes a peat fire in a forest near the town of Shatura, some 130 km (81 miles) southeast of Moscow, 19 July 2010. Peat swamps started burning in central Russia following an unprecedented heat wave. (AP Photo/Mitya Aleshkovskiy)
  • Russia Heatwave

    Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral is barely visible through a smog covering Moscow, 29 July 2010. The heat wave has gone higher than 30 C for four weeks, breaking all records for the last 130 years and a smoke from burning forests around Moscow has reached the city. A statue of St.George, symbol of Moscow is at right. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
  • Russia Heatwave

    A soldier of the Kremlin subdivision collapse from heat exhaustion near the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in downtown Moscow. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
  • Russia Heatwave

    A young couple cool themselves in a fountain at the Exhibition Center in Moscow, on 28 July 2010. (AP Photo/IgorYakunin)
  • Russia Heatwave

    Young people sit in a fountain at the Exhibition Center in Moscow. (AP Photo / IgorYakunin)
  • Russia Heatwave

    A polar bear eats artificial snow in Moscow Zoo to cool down during the heatwave. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
  • Russia Heatwave

    Boys ride bicycles at a fountain try to cool themselves in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, about 1500 km (900 miles) east of Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)