News24

Smog returns to Moscow

2010-08-17 12:54

Moscow – Smoke from wildfires around Moscow has returned to some parts of the Russian capital even though firefighters have scored successes in containing the blazes, officials said on Tuesday.

Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said its teams have cut the area covered by fires around Moscow by more than a quarter over the past 24 hours, but 14 forest and peat bog fires are still burning east and southeast of the city.

Early on Tuesday, large sections of the capital were again cloaked by smog, although the concentration of pollutants remained far below their peak levels earlier this month when smog hung over the city for a week.

Alexei Popikov of the Mosecomonitoring watchdog agency said carbon monoxide levels in the air remained within their maximum safe limit on Tuesday, but the amount of hydrocarbons is twice the permissible level. He said the situation is expected to improve with a wind change later in the day.

A heat wave of a level not seen since records began 130 years ago has sparked thousands of fires in Russia, mostly in the western part of the country. Officials said that the scorching heat and smog have doubled the number of deaths recorded in the capital.

More than 50 people have died directly in the wildfires across Russia, and more than 2 000 homes have been destroyed.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said on Tuesday that more than 166 000 people and 62 firefighting aircraft are battling wildfires across the country. It said the amount of land on fire nationwide has been halved since Monday.

Drought has cost Russia a third of its wheat crop, prompting the government to ban wheat exports through the end of the year in a move that further spiked already soaring world grain prices. The government has promised subsidies to farmers and pledged to protect domestic consumers from unjustified price hikes.