Death Rate Surges In Russian Heatwave

1:20pm UK, Friday August 06, 2010

Lulu Sinclair, Sky News Online

Russia's worst heatwave in more than a century has seen the mortality rate in Moscow soar by a third in July.


Moscow is blanketed in acrid smoke

There were 14,340 deaths in the capital over the month, 4,824 more than last July, an official has revealed.

"The increase started in July, as opposed to June when the figures were largely good. The heatwave has certainly had an influence," she added.

While there had been unconfirmed reports of an increase the authorities had, until now, denied them.

Click here to see Moscow correspondent Amanda Walker's report

Meanwhile, airports and businesses closed as the city was blanketed in acrid smoke caused by mountain and forest fires.

Office workers wore masks as pollution surged to five times the normal level with officials urging Moscovites to stay indoors.

"I can smell smoke right here in the office," one bank employee reported.

One businesswoman said: "My head aches, I feel nausea and I'm scared for my 83-year-old mother, who feels really bad."

A dome of Christ the Saviour Cathedral is seen through heavy smog

Christ the Saviour Cathedral dome seen through heavy smog

The famed onion domes of St Basil's cathedral were invisible from the opposite end of Red Square because of the dense smoke.

Nasa satellite images have shown a 1,850-mile smoke cloud covering western Russia.

The country's deadliest wildfires in nearly four decades have killed at least 50 people and left thousands homeless as entire villages made of wooden houses burned down.

Some 150,000 people have been involved in the so far unsuccessful fight to control the blazes.