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August 05, 2010

Smoke From Russian Fires Forces Flight Restrictions in Moscow

Authorities say dense smoke from Russian wildfires has forced flight restrictions at Moscow airports Friday.

Several flights were diverted or grounded as pollution levels soared to five times the usual level.  So far, the fires have killed 50 people.  

Health officials are warning Moscow residents to protect themselves from the thick smog that has enveloped the city.  Officials say being outside can be hazardous even for healthy people.  They compare daily exposure to the air pollution to smoking several packs of cigarettes.

The fires are a result of a drought and a stifling heat wave that has sent daily temperatures in Moscow soaring past the 40-degree Celsius mark.

Also, Russia has announced it is suspending grain exports because of a long drought, sending U.S. wheat prices soaring to two-year high.

The price for a bushel of wheat hit $7.85 on the Chicago Board of Trade, where contracts for commodities futures are bought and sold.  The Russian export ban is likely to bring higher prices for bread, cereal, and cattle feed in much of the world.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the export ban from August 15 until the end of the year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.