Forest Fires In Eastern Ukraine Kill At Least Nine People

KYIV – Ukrainian officials say massive forest fires in the eastern region of Luhansk have killed at least nine people.

A total of 17 people have been hospitalized while dozens of others have been evacuated as a series of blazes swept across several districts in the region, endangering 32 settlements, the State Service for Emergency Situations (DSNS) said in a statement on October 2.

According to the DSNS, more than 2,500 people and 264 technical units, including aircraft, have been dispatched to put out the fires, which it said had spread across an area totaling about 13,000 hectares.

The fires started on September 30 and hit an area close to the front line between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the Luhansk region.

The conflict between Ukrainian armed forces and the separatists in Luhansk and the neighboring region of Donetsk has killed more than 13,200 people since April 2014.

Police have launched seven probes into the fires.

The Prosecutor-General's Office said on October 2 that it was looking into four possible causes of the deadly fires -- the shelling of Kyiv-controlled districts by the separatists, arson, extremely hot weather and winds, and the irresponsible usage of fire.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told reporters on October 2 that the government will pay compensation of 20,000-300,000 hryvnyas ($250-$3,800) to families who have lost relatives and/or suffered property damage as a result of the fires.