Moscow hit by choking smog

Monday 09th Aug 2010 by theWeather Club

The days of the legendary 'London Pea-souper' smog may be a thing of the past since clean air legislation was introduced, but the citizens of Moscow have been finding out that 'dark satanic mills' are not the only causes of this smoke based menace. Russian officials have been warning people to stay indoors and avoid heavy physical exertion as thick smog – a choking combination of smoke and fog – is being caused by some of the worst wildfires in modern Russian history. Over 500 wildfires are still burning across central Russia with 27 peat bog fires burning in the Moscow region alone. The resulting smog has blanketed the city, grounding dozens of flights at local airports as well as posing a health risk to local residents.

Add to this the unrelenting temperatures of around 40C caused by the region's worst heat wave for over a century and there is the potential for a real public health crisis. A Moscow registry office told the AFP news agency that the city's overall death rate had risen by 50 per cent in July compared with the same period last year. "We recorded 14,340 deaths in Moscow in July, that is 4,824 deaths more than in July 2009," Yevgenia Smirnova told the agency. "The increase started in July, as opposed to June when the figures were largely good. The heat wave has certainly had an influence."

The Russian news agency Interfax quoted an anonymous "informed" source as saying Moscow's mortality rate for July had risen by 29.7 per cent as a direct result of the "catastrophic heat and smog". City authorities have opened "anti-smog centres". These are air conditioned rooms in government buildings and hospitals where locals can go to "get their breath back" as they go about their daily business.