Heat drives Muscovites to beaches

This summer is likely to be remembered as one of the hottest ever in Moscow as temperatures have reached their highest levels in more than a century. And swimming as the escape from heat is not the safest way.

Muscovites use the city's rivers, ponds and lakes to cool down. There are only 18 public beaches opened throughout the city which mean there is one beach for approximately half a million people.

In fact, the work of the rescue teams is extremely difficult, as sometimes there is as much as 1,000 people in water simultaneously.

Nearly 5,000 people cram onto Rublevsky beach alone.

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But for the emergency services patrolling the beach – Russia's own baywatch – it is a hazard zone.

Andrey Makarevich, a rescuer, begins his shift broadcasting basic safety instructions. 

“It's hot, everyone is heading towards the water but not everyone is following the safety rules. So many things can happen here. Boats overturning or colliding, swimmers go too far out where they can get caught in the propellers. Drunk swimmers are our number one problem,” commented Andrey Makarevich, rescuer.

A sip of beer seems innocent, alcohol is sold everywhere on the beach, many bring bottles of wine and vodka to their picnic. But alcohol causes over 90% of the fatalities rescuers have to deal with. And, usually, it's a matter of seconds before fun turns into tragedy.

Many seem to be aware of the simple rules: not to drink before swimming or boating, keep an eye on children and stay within the boundaries. Nevertheless, some Russians like to break them.

Night swimming is another problem. As the beaches close, the crowd that stays late often gets unruly. A special dive team is called often on Monday mornings to search for the missing. They found nine bodies in the Moscow area waterways last weekend alone.


People are beginning to understand that they only are given one life and safety shouldn't be taken for granted. Most obey reluctantly the first warning, we also work closely with the city and water police to fish out the stubborn ones.

Andrey Makarevich, rescuer

But the trouble doesn't stop at the city's designated beaches. Away from the crowd and regular patrols, people dive off the banks of Moscow River and its waterways unaware of the risks. Stones, metal pipes, tree trunks are invisible in the muddy waters.

In case of emergency the baywatch crew can arrive within minutes, but in the improvised swimming spots help may come too late.

“People are beginning to understand that they only are given one life and safety shouldn't be taken for granted. Most obey reluctantly the first warning, we also work closely with the city and water police to fish out the stubborn ones,” added Andrey Makarevich.

So far the ministry of emergencies has rescued 357 people in Moscow this year. 160 have drowned.

Accidents do happen, and they are often down to people's psychology. The problem lies in the Russian concept of 'avos', which roughly means living life on the off-chance.