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Monday, July 26, 2010

Moscow heatwave: Thick smoke from peat fires covers the city

Moscow heatwave: Smog covers city

by Amie Ferris-Rotman and Tanya Ustinova, Cape Times, July 26, 2010

Muscovites struggled to breathe on Monday when the city woke up to thick smog from fires that blanketed Red Square, as a heatwave that has ruined crops and broken temperature records surges on with no end in sight.

In the area surrounding the Russian capital, 34 peat fires and 26 forest fires blazed on Monday morning, covering 59 hectares (145 acres), the emergency ministry said in a statement.

State-run RIA news agency said airports serving Moscow, a city of 14-million, had so far been unaffected by the thick smoke, whose sharp, cinder-filled smell permeated the city. Black clouds of smoke enveloped the golden onion domes of the Kremlin as the smog crept across large swathes of the city.

A spokesperson for the emergency ministry said Moscow last suffered a similar attack in 2002, also from fires caused by hot weather. The ministry appealed to residents and holiday-makers to stay away from forests on Monday, saying it was unsafe.

Interfax news agency, citing ecological experts, said the smoke had already started to affect the cleanliness of the air, posing a potential danger if inhaled.

Last Thursday temperatures in the capital hit 35 °C (95 °F) for the first time since 1981 as a heatwave that has destroyed Russian crops over an area the size of Portugal showed no sign of abating.


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