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22 Aug, 2007 15:58

Wildfire smoke covers Moscow

Russia's Ministry of Health is advising residents of Moscow to leave the city if they can, due to deteriorating air quality in the capital.

Smoke from wildfires is being blown across Moscow increasing the quantity of harmful particles in the air to more than three times the normal amount. 

Reduced visibility and the acrid air are the result of tens of peatland fires raging in the Moscow region. 

The swamps around Moscow were drained early last century which dried out the peat bogs that burn easily and often undetected. In addition, they are hard to reach by the firemen. 

The higher air pollution poses a danger to health, particularly affecting the young, the elderly, and those with respiratory diseases. 

“In the mornings and evenings there is smog. We have to keep the doors and windows shut, to prevent the smell getting in. We are suffering from headaches, and have no energy. This is very unpleasant,” said one of Moscow residents. 

Thick smoke of the peatland fires five years ago enveloped Moscow for weeks. Tens of people are estimated to have died, while thousands had to undergo medical treatment. 

No one knows whether this year will see a repeat of 2002, but environmentalists say the long-term prospects are bleak. Temperatures are expected to remain high well into next week and weather reports forecast little rain.