Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Anti-smog centres open in Russia

St Basil's Cathedral seen through the heavy smog covering Moscow (AP)

More than 120 'anti-smog' centres have been opened by authorities in Moscow to give residents an escape from record-breaking heat and choking smoke from wildfires blazing around the capital.

Overwhelmed Muscovites can "get their breath back" in 123 air-conditioned rooms that have opened to the public in government buildings and hospitals, city official Vladimir Petrosyan said. Most apartments in Moscow lack air conditioning.

Moscow emergency officials said they registered 49 wildfires around Moscow, including 14 peat bog fires. About 830 separate forest blazes are also burning nationwide - slightly less than earlier this week - as the country endures its most intense heatwave in 130 years.

Daily highs have reached up to 100F (38C), compared to the summer average of 75F (24C), and there is no end in sight.

At least 52 people have died and more 2,000 homes have been destroyed in the blazes. Russian officials have admitted that the 10,000 firefighters battling the blazes aren't enough.

The Moscow Ecological Monitoring Service said the concentration of airborne pollutants such as carbon monoxide is more than three times normal levels. However, the concentration appears likely to begin decreasing soon, it said.

Moscow airports reported delays or diversions of some 90 flights due to low visibility, and emergency workers could not use planes and helicopters.

Authorities in the central Mordovia region said they were preparing the evacuation of two penal colonies located in forested areas engulfed by wildfires.

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