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26 Jul, 2010 08:31

Great Russian drought: crops wither, people drown

The unprecedented heat wave sweeping Russia continues unabated, with July already the hottest month on record.

As a result of the heat, Moscow is now suffering from smog emanating from peat bogs that have caught fire on the outskirts of the capital.

Russia’s capital has been covered with a veil of smog and there is a strong scent of burning in the air. The city’s big buildings, including the 540-meter-tall Ostankino TV tower are hardly visible. The pollution of the air is now one and a half times higher than normal. Despite this, Moscow’s airports have not been affected.

Russia’s Emergency Ministry reports that there are currently 34 pit fires and 26 forest blazes in the Moscow region alone.

“There's a big danger that this year is going to be the worst in centuries in terms of peat fires,” Aleksey Yaroshenko, from Greenpeace Russia, told RT. “This year is definitely worse than 2002. Unfortunately, this is due not only to the heat but to how the fires are being dealt with. The Institute for Forest Protection was got rid of under the new forest code. So there are no forest wardens to watch out for and prevent fires at the early stages. No high technologies can make up for that.”

It should be noted that last winter in Russia was particularly harsh and cold, while this summer is the hottest in 130 years of meteorological records.

On top of soaring temperatures, over 1000 people around Russia have drowned since the beginning of the swimming season.

At least 23 regions of the country have declared a state of emergency where crops have died as a result of the scorching weather.

The temperatures of last week ranged from +31 ºC to +39 ºC.