Sunday, August 22, 2010

Deadly Russian heatwave declared over

Russian meteorologists said on Wednesday Moscow's deadly heat wave was ending after two months of searing weather which took a high human and economic toll.

"Today is the last hot day in Moscow," said Roman Vilfand, head of the meteorological service.

The capital's temperature will plunge from Wednesday's 31 degrees Celsius (88 F) to 21-23 (70-73 F) on Thursday, he said.

Muscovites woke up on Wednesday to what seemed like the remains of the acrid smoke from forest and peat bog fires that had blanketed the capital for two weeks.

Rains of varied intensity were expected in almost all regions of European Russia, the Urals, Siberia and the country's Far East though to the weekend, Roshydromet said on its website.

Officials broke the silence over the effects of the heat and smoke on Aug. 9, when the head of Moscow's health department, Andrei Seltsovsky, said deaths had doubled to 700 per day and heat was the main cause.

The heat wave and drought along with the accompanying forest and peat fires are also estimated to have destroyed a quarter of Russia's grain crop and could shave $14 billion off this year's gross domestic product.

Though smoke still lingered in the air, chances of harmful effects were much lower than the toxic peak in early August, the city's pollution monitoring service said.

Amounts of pollution surged to between four and 10 times on Aug. 4,
hitting the worst level in eight years.

The Emergencies Ministry said on Wednesday it was considering lifting the state of emergency placed on the Moscow region as well as the Mordovia region, while the Vladimir and Ryazan regions were still on fire, creating smoke.

Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, who cut his holiday short in the face off criticism he was absent from his choke-filled city, resumed his vacation on Wednesday, state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted a city council source as saying.

Reuters, "Deadly Russian heatwave declared over", accessed August 20, 2010

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