September 30, 2016 / 12:26 PM / a year ago

Wildfires engulf forests in eastern Siberia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian firefighters are battling to extinguish wildfires that have engulfed forests in eastern Siberia and forced schools to close in its Irkutsk region, according to local media.

Environmental group Greenpeace said some two million hectares had been on fire and large amounts of carbon disgorged by the fires represented an environmental threat and a danger to local communities.

A state of emergency had been declared in the Irkutsk region and all activity banned in local forests where fires were still raging, the regional emergencies ministry said.

Fifty criminal cases had been brought against people accused of violating fire safety rules, it added.

Reporting by Reuters Television; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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