Russians struggle for life in heat wave

After more than a month of record high temperatures, strong winds and heavy rains have swept through north-western regions of Russia, threatening to replace the heat with yet another form of extreme weather.

The storm swept through residential areas on Sunday, overturning cars, uprooting trees, damaging railways and electricity wires.

Forecasters say the hurricane-level winds will hit Moscow within the next few days.

There has been little respite from the extreme weather which has already endangered lives in Russia this year.

Ambulance crews have been in a tough battle to reach patients, with the number of emergency calls at record levels.

The Shilins have not left their apartment for days. The husband and wife struggle with the daily heat wave blasting their home, but staying indoors is better than even thinking about going outside.

“We don't go outside, haven’t been out in the street for days,” says pensioner Valentina Shilina. “The heat is so difficult for us… it’s hard to breathe, and your heart can give you trouble.”

With no air conditioning, and a $180 per month pension, Ivan Shilin and his wife can only rely on their daughter.

She hangs wet drapes in the doorways and covers her parents with damp cloths in an attempt to ward off the heat and the trouble it brings.

The couple is pulling through, thanks to their daughter, but many others are not.

There are no official statistics on how many people have died in the past two months.

“When natural anomalies happen, certain complications take place health wise and the death rate is somewhat higher. But we don't have the exact statistics, and I would not say that the death rate has doubled or tripled and all hospitals are packed with patients. I have not noticed anything like that,” says Dr. Mehman Mamedov.

But medics are working round the clock, trying to get to every patient on time. Even private healthcare has seen an increase in calls.

“We get a lot of callouts, and some are not from regular clients. But we handle it all. We're well staffed and well stocked,” says Dr. Mikhail Rappaport.

The ambulance sets off, sirens screaming, but without the weather on their side, even the medical staffs may find themselves fighting a battle they cannot win.