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Cold wave kills 64 in Russia

A severe cold wave has killed 64 people across Russia in January.

About 1,400 people requested medical assistance, with 779 admitted to hospitals, Deputy Health Minister Maxim Topilin said, adding the figures only include data from 50 out of 83 Russian regions.

The temperatures in Russia are 7-12 degrees below normal. The cold snap even extends into the normally warm North Caucasus with temperatures there plummeting to minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Siberia and the Far East, no strangers to harsh winter, are currently in a deep freeze at minus 40 degrees Celsius.

An official said five people died overnight in the Russian capital, where low temperatures in different parts of the city dipped to between minus 23 and 27 degrees Celsius.

The biting cold compels Russians to make excessive use of heating devices such as electrical space heaters and furnaces, which increase the chances of house fires.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said the number of house fires increased by 30 percent since the severe frosts began this year.

Many of them were caused by electric circuits in overloaded electricity systems, fireplaces and damaged household gas systems.

The Russian Meteorological Bureau said the peak of severe colds has already passed in European Russia, but the temperature will remain 6-8 degrees below the norm for at least another week.

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