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A fresh wave of wildfires that engulfed more than a dozen villages and towns in southern Russia has killed at least eight people and destroyed hundreds of homes, officials say.

Hundreds of blazes driven by high winds and scorching temperatures have burnt down nearly 500 buildings in about 20 villages in the Volgograd and Saratov provinces, an emergencies ministry spokewoman said.

On Friday officials said eight people had been killed and 18 injured in the past day, with new fires flaring up in more than 25 populated areas.  

"The latest information available to us confirms the death of eight people," a Russian Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman told the Interfax news agency.

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"About 1,000 people are without shelter. Eighteen people have been injured," the emergency ministry said in a statement.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has ordered authorities to mobilise all means to fight the new blazes, as the emergencies ministry warned there was a risk of the fires spreading to other southern regions.

The latest fires have claimed the life of an elderly man in his seventies and a woman also in her seventies in two villages, a local official told the Interfax news agency.

About 150 people had to be evacuated after losing their homes, according to the emergencies ministry, which has dispatched three aircraft to fight the fires.

A ministry spokeswoman said that 10 centres had been set up to shelter people.

The latest blazes come after destructive wildfires in July and August killed at least 54 people in central Russia amid the country's worst heat wave ever recorded.

Although heavy rains have helped quench the fires in much of the country, the southern regions of Volgograd, Saratov and Samara remain hot and dry.

A ministry statement said the new fires were fanned by high winds and some started when the winds caused power lines to cross, shooting off sparks.

Source: Agencies