Sunday 22 April 2018

Death rate doubles in Moscow as killer heatwave grips city

William Crumm in Moscow

MOSCOW'S health chief has confirmed that the mortality rate has doubled as a heatwave and wildfire smog continue to grip the Russian capital.

There were twice the usual number of bodies in the city's morgues, Andrei Seltsovsky told reporters.

Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been declared around a nuclear reprocessing plant in the southern Urals because of nearby wildfires. Ozersk was the site of Russia's worst nuclear disaster in 1957.

Some of the land around the Mayak plant, which was known in Soviet times as Chelyabinsk-40, is believed to be still contaminated from the disaster.

The 1957 incident involved the explosion of a tank of radioactive waste.

Several radioactive leaks have been reported from the plant in recent years.

Ozersk's administration announced on the town's website that residents were forbidden from entering the region's abundant, picturesque woodlands until further notice, and ordered urgent, unspecified fire safety measures.

Recent death rates for parts of central Russia other than Moscow, which have had similar droughts and wildfires for more than a month, have not been released.

Russia's Health Minister, Tatyana Golikova, demanded a formal clarification of Mr Seltsovsky's data.

Her ministry said it was "puzzled by the unofficial figures quoted".

"On normal days, between 360 and 380 die; now it's around 700," Mr Seltsovsky told reporters.

The concentration of carbon monoxide in Moscow was still more than double the acceptable level on Monday as smog from peat and wildfires continued to blanket the city.

Temperatures of more than 35C are forecast for the city until Thursday.

Irish Independent

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