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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

Al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs