Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Suicide fears amid Russia wildfires

Russian officials say the suicide rate is increasing due to the wildfires creating smog around Moscow

Russian health experts have warned that unprecedented heat and suffocating smog from wildfires will lead to more suicides, higher alcohol abuse rates and other problems, and accused the government of failing to address the long-term health dangers.

The hottest summer since records began 130 years ago has sparked thousands of fires in Russia, mostly in the western part of the country, and smoke from wildfires around Moscow has again clouded some parts of the capital even though firefighters have scored successes in containing the blazes.

Officials have said that the scorching heat and smog have doubled the number of deaths recorded in Moscow.

"This heat has affected all organs, including respiratory and endocrine systems, and we should expect more cases of diabetes, suicides, alcohol-related nervous breakdowns," Boris Revich, a medical expert at the Moscow-based Institute for Economic Forecasts, said at a news conference.

Revich said children and pregnant women are particularly at risk.

Official data on the number of suicides and medical conditions related to the heatwave is not available yet, he said.

Another expert deplored what he called the lack of long-term emergency planning in healthcare.

"We never care to work with a future perspective in mind," said Alexey Skripkov of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency. "It's a big systemic mistake."

He said that European nations such as Germany and France were quick to upgrade their healthcare policies after the unprecedented heatwave in 2003.

Russian officials have failed to take similar measures even though peat bog and forest fires have burned around Moscow in the past, he added.

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