Moscow opens anti-smog centers as fires burn

Last Updated: Sunday, August 8, 2010 - 23:19

Moscow: Moscow authorities on Sunday opened
more than 120 "anti-smog" centers to give residents an escape
from record-breaking heat and choking smoke from wildfires
blazing around the capital. Dozens of flights were grounded at
local airports.



Overwhelmed Muscovites can "get their breath back"
in 123 air-conditioned rooms that have opened to the public in
government buildings and hospitals, city official Vladimir
Petrosyan said. Most apartments in Moscow lack air
conditioning.



Moscow emergency officials said they registered 49
wildfires around Moscow today, including 14 peat bog fires.
About 830 separate forest blazes were burning nationwide early
today - slightly less than earlier this week - as the country
endured its most intense heat wave in 130 years.

Daily highs have reached up to 38 degree Celsius,
compared to the summer average of 24 C, and there is no end in
sight.



At least 52 people have died and more 2,000 homes
have been destroyed in the blazes. Russian officials have
admitted that the 10,000 firefighters battling the blazes
aren`t enough.



The Moscow Ecological Monitoring Service said the
concentration of airborne pollutants such as carbon monoxide
is more than three times normal levels. The concentration
appeared likely to decrease by tomorrow, it said.

Some Moscow residents reacted to weeks of heat and
smog with apocalyptic pessimism. "I think it is the end of the
world," said Vera Savinova, a 52 year-old administrator in a
dental clinic. "Our planet warns us against what would happen
if we don`t care about nature."



Many reported health complications associated with
the smoke. "I am feeling very bad," said Nikolay Zhukov, a 54
year-old asthmatic. "We can`t open the windows because of the
smoke, and we can`t stay at home because it`s too hot."



Moscow airports reported delays or diversions of
some 90 flights today due to low visibility, and emergency
workers could not use planes and helicopters.



Authorities in the central Mordovia region said
they were preparing the evacuation of two penal colonies
located in forested areas engulfed by wildfires. They did not
specify the amount of inmates.



Also today, more than 40 elderly were evacuated
from a nursing home in the central Voronezh region, where
fires have destroyed hundreds of houses and killed five people
in recent weeks.



PTI



First Published: Sunday, August 8, 2010 - 23:19

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