Ukraine says forest fires under control

Kiev (AFP) –


Ukrainian firefighters have brought under control forest fires that have killed five people and left dozens homeless, the interior ministry said on Thursday.

Large-scale blazes erupted on Monday in the eastern Lugansk region and engulfed a village not far from the front line of Ukraine's war with Moscow-backed separatists.

On Thursday, interior ministry spokesman Artem Shevchenko told AFP the situation was "better" and that the fires had been localised but declined to give further details.

About 1,500 firefighters, rescue workers and National Guard are involved in an effort to put out smoldering forest floor spots.

The number of hospitalised people has increased to 34 from 20, including 15 children, the interior ministry said.

On Monday, the blaze engulfed Smolyanynove, a village just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the frontline.

More than 100 homes have been destroyed entirely in Smolyanynove and another village, with dozens more damaged.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Wednesday the situation was improving during his visit to the disaster zone with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

An AFP correspondent in Smolyanynove saw animal corpses and scorched buildings with their window panes melted and gardens burned.

Police said it was considering three possible causes including extreme weather conditions, careless handling of fire, and deliberate arson.