Severe smog blankets Moscow

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hot weather and peat fires near Moscow have created the worst smog in the city in almost a decade, with pollution levels around ten times higher than is considered safe.

At least 43 peat fires have erupted in rural regions to the east and south of the city, and temperatures only 0.1 degrees Celsius less than the record high of 34.7 degrees, set Monday, have led to a thick cloud of smog settling over the city.

According to pulmonologist Alexander Chuchalin, breathing the smog is equivalent "to the effect of two packs of cigarettes smoked within three or four hours."

Scientists predict that several hundred people may die as a result of the smog; Vladimir Kuznetsov of the Independent Center for Environmental Policy said that "[t]here will be sad news for some people with severe allergies, heart conditions, asthma, other breathing conditions and the like."

Numerous buildings in Moscow, particularly those dating from the era of the Soviet Union, lack air-conditioning, which makes it particularly difficult to combat the smog.

Temperatures are predicted to begin cooling by the weekend, and smog is expected to begin dissipating by the end of this week, although traces could remain for a few weeks.