News / Europe

Heat Wave, Smog Double Moscow's Daily Death Rate

James Brooke

Russia's summer of heat, drought and fire is starting to take a human toll in Moscow, Europe's most populous city.

Deaths in Moscow have doubled to an average of 700 people a day as the city struggles with a deadly combination of record hot temperatures and poisonous smog from wildfires.

Andre Seltsovky, Moscow's health chief, blamed weeks of heat and smog for the jump in mortality compared to the same time last year.

The average death rate in the city during normal times is between 360-380 people a day, he said. Today, we have around 700.

He added that the city's morgues are filled with 1,300 bodies, close to their capacity. In addition, he said, ambulance trips are up by almost one third, to 10,000 a day. And city officials have ordered 3 million face masks for the population, estimated to be 11 million.

The health department director's comments broke days of official silence on the human toll in the capital. But within hours, Russia's health minister, Tatyana Golikova, demanded an explanation for the statistics.

Acrid smog blanketed Moscow for a sixth straight day Monday, with concentrations of carbon monoxide and other poisonous substances running at roughly double the safe levels. Last weekend, airborne pollutants soared, exceeding safe limits by nearly seven times.

In face of the smog, several embassies in Moscow, including the American, cut their services Monday. Citing 'hazardous levels of air pollution,' the U.S. State Department issued a warning advising people planning to visit Moscow to carefully consider their plans. The warning expires Sept. 5.

Since Friday, smoke from wildfires has delayed or forced the cancellation of 64,000 flights in European Russia, Rosgidromet, the national weather bureau, reported Monday.

On Sunday, Moscow airports experienced a record exodus - 104,000 people flying out of the city. Travel agents report that package tours to destinations popular with Russians like Egypt, Montenegro and Turkey are completely sold out for next weekend.

At the heart of the smog is an infernal archipelago of 550 wildfires across central Russia. NASA estimates that they are pumping as much as 1 million tons of carbon monoxide into the air every day.

Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Emergency Situation, told reporters Monday: "We need a wind, any kind of wind."

Without a wind, he said, the Moscow basin is filling up with automobile exhaust gases and the smoke of about 40 peat fires burning around the capital.

Forecasters say the pollution may decline on Wednesday with a wind from the west. To help Mother Nature, Russia's national weather bureau, asked Moscow's industrial enterprises to cut emissions by about one third through Wednesday afternoon. Health authorities have asked employers to give workers Tuesday off.

On the fire front, there is little room for optimism. The weather bureau expects another 10 days of African-style heat for European Russia - and no significant rain for the rest of August.

On Monday, Prime Minister Putin further cut his forecast of Russia's grain crop, saying it would be at least one third less than last year's bumper crop of 97 million tons. Last week, Mr. Putin shocked world markets by barring further exports of wheat this year from Russia, the world's third largest producer.

Alexander Frolov, head of Russia's weather service, said Monday that historic records and the study of lake deposits indicate that this summer's heat wave could be Russia's worst in 1,000 years.

Speaking at a Moscow a news conference, he said: "This phenomenon is absolutely unique. We have an 'archive' of abnormal weather situations stretching over a 1,000 years. It is possible to say there was nothing similar to this on the territory of Russia during the last 1,000 years in regard to the heat."

Health authorities say that living in Moscow these days is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. In response, city officials have opened 123 air-conditioned rooms with filtered air - the pulmonary equivalent of a municipal network of non-smoking rooms.

See additional photos by VOA’s Sergei Moskalev in Moscow:

You May Like

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces in New York

Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at United Nations in New York More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid