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10 Aug, 2010 04:42

Moscow resembles apocalyptic movie scene

After a few hours of relief on Monday, millions of Russians are again waking up to a thick layer of smog as forest and peat fires continue to rage across the country.

Experts have already called the current record-breaking heatwave the worst in a thousand years.

With every other person wearing a mask, the city now looks like the center of a dangerous epidemic.

And as with such a scenario, people’s health is at great risk.

“The smog which has come to Moscow has increased the carbon monoxide concentration in the air by several times,” said Doctor Vasily Vlasov, president of Society for evidence-based medicine. “This smog is surely very toxic and poisonous to breathe…We register a death increase in comparison with the usual summertime."

Among other risks are heat strokes and dehydration.

Shrouded in a smoky haze, desperate people have tried everything – from dampening cloth and putting it on the windows to using vacuum cleaners to suck in the poisonous air.

“The smog is terrible, I can’t breathe!” one of Moscow residents told RT. “It makes my eyes itch. Nothing helps no matter what we do – whether we wear masks or put wet curtains over the windows.”

Unable to cope with the heat and toxic smog, many are now fleeing the city.

Natalya Zorina is taking her whole family on an unplanned vacation – on a hunt for gulps of fresh air.

“I think there isn't one person who wouldn't leave Moscow right now if they had an opportunity," Natalya told RT. “I feel sad for the elderly – most of them are really stuck here.”

Authorities are trying to ease people's suffering.

So-called smog centers have been set up, distributing water and masks.

But a lack of air-conditioners has marred the initiative – there may be no smoke inside, but the heat is unbearable.

“It’s like a volcano eruption, there is ash in the air,” a Moscow resident said. “It makes my throat sore, and it feels dreadful.”

“People shouldn’t work in such conditions; the government must send them home,” another Muscovite told RT.

The country’s chief doctor asked employers to give people days off.

Airports have become a Mecca for tens of thousands who hope to escape the smog choking the city.

“Visa free countries are the number one choice, because it's possible to leave the very next day,” said Yekaterina Izerman, a travel agency deputy head. “But besides that, people are going in all directions – even to tropical countries, which seem more comfortable compared to this heat.”

But the thick smoke has delayed flights, turning many airports into suffocating traps for stranded passengers.

Rain is now as highly sought-after in Moscow after as snow at Christmas.

Weather forecasts say there will be a small decrease of temperature and a change of wind in the next few days. But unfortunately it is not enough.

While burning forests and peat-bogs are feeding the capital’s smog, there is no imminent end in sight to these post-apocalyptic scenes.

Concerning the abnormal weather conditions, Dr. Fred Goldberg, a climate analyst from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, said that laws of nature lead to climate change, not human actions.

He also predicted that Russia could see a much colder winter in the near future.