World News: Russian Deaths Double As Fires Persist, Toxic Smog Blankets Cities

08/10/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan

Moscow, Russia—A record-breaking heat wave, drought, relentless wildfires, noxious smog and notorious drinking tendencies shared by many Russians’ have caused fatality rates in Moscow to double. As of Monday, August 9, 2010, 550 fires burned throughout the European nation, leaving the air polluted with hazardous levels of carbon monoxide and other toxins, according to information provided by the Associated Press.

Reports indicated the death toll in Moscow rose to an average of 700 casualties a day, leading health chief Andrei Seltsovky to point the finger at weeks of incessant wildfires, sweltering temperatures, and dangerous airborne substances.

While Russia generally tends to experience temperatures averaging 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) in the summer, the heat wave has caused temperatures to reach 100 F (38 C).

This heat wave marks the highest temperatures in 130 years of recording and, based on historical documents, could be the hottest experienced in 1,000 years, according to Alexander Frolov, head of the nation’s weather service.

According to climate change and health expert Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, with the Geneva-based World Health Organization, “The impacts tend to be more severe in places that are not used to these kinds of temperatures.”

Campbell-Lendrum stated, “These temperatures wouldn’t be out of place in the southern U.S. or Australia, but in Russia, the infrastructure is not used to these temperatures and the risk of death will increase.”

It was also noted that the excessive heat and toxic smog are particularly dangerous to the elderly, as well as individuals with health conditions. Over the weekend airborne pollutants reportedly surpassed the safe limit by almost seven times.

While drought and countless blazes continue to spread, claiming victims and crops along the way, another issue has also contributed to the rising number of fatalities: alcohol.

According to a July 14 ABC News Report, more than 1,200 people drowned during the month of June alone. “The majority of those drowned were drunk… The children died because adults simply did not look after them,” added Russian Emergencies Ministry official Vadim Seryogin.

During the span of a week in the beginning of July, 233 drowning-induced fatalities were reported. “It’s very, very common… [First we] drink, then go swimming. After swimming, we go drinking. It’s like a circle… It’s a problem, it’s a problem,” said Moscow resident Nadezdha Voronova.

Approximately 10,000 firefighters were initially sent out to fight the ceaseless infernos. However, due to the severity of the situation, Russian authorities also recently dispatched thousands of soldiers to help battle the fires. To date, 2,000 homes have been destroyed while the blazes have claimed at least 52 lives directly.

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan.

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