Fourteen die in Kazakhstan forest fires: Official

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Fourteen people have died in major forest fires in northeastern Kazakhstan, the emergency situations ministry said on Saturday, the Central Asian country’s highest such toll in years.

“In total, 14 bodies have been found,” the ministry said in a statement, having previously announced it was searching for trapped forest rangers as fires consumed 60,000 hectares (148,000 acres) of land.

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The ministry said 316 people had been evacuated but that the situation was under control and homes safe, despite the high temperature and the changing direction of the wind hindering the response.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sacked emergency situations minister Yury Ilyin earlier on Saturday.

More than 1,000 people, mostly from the defense and emergency situations ministries, are taking part in the effort to put out the fires.

They were started by lightning on Thursday, according to the local authorities in the vast ex-Soviet nation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered his condolences to Tokayev.

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