Pollution reaches new high as smog smothers Moscow

Residents don face masks while authorities fight to keep forest fires away from nuclear installation

A suffocating smog from wildfires hung over the Russian capital on Saturday, raising the concentration of dangerous pollutants to a new high as residents donned masks and dozens of flights were delayed at the city's airports.

In the Niznhy Novgorod region, 220 miles east of Moscow, Russian troops had to dig a five-mile canal to keep the fires away from the Sarov nuclear arms facility, which is ringed by forest. This was where the first Soviet atomic bomb was produced in 1949 and it remains the country's main nuclear design and production facility. Last Thursday, Russia's nuclear chief assured President Dmitry Medvedev that all explosive and radioactive material had been removed as a precautionary measure.

Nearly 600 separate blazes were burning nationwide yesterday, mainly across western Russia, according to the Emergencies Ministry, which said that the area affected had increased over the past 24 hours. Hundreds of forest and peat bog fires have ignited amid the country's most intense heat wave in 130 years. At least 52 people have been killed directly by the fires, and more than 4,000 made homeless. Some officials said that an estimated 5,000 people are thought to have died as a result of the resulting air pollution.

Moscow and most of western Russia have had temperatures approaching 38C, and it is expected to remain hot for at least a week. The area's average summer temperature is 23C.

A thick haze engulfed Moscow for a second day as south-eastern winds blew smoke from the areas worst affected by the forest fires. Meteorologists said the winds are unlikely to change over the next few days. The concentration of carbon monoxide is at more than six times normal levels, according to city health officials. The smog has seeped into buildings and the city's subway system. "The smoke is everywhere – at home, in shopping malls, on the subway," said Roman Morozov, 29, an architect.

Visibility was down to a few hundred metres, and dozens of flights bound for Moscow's Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports were diverted to other airports or delayed. Health officials have urged those who have to go outdoors to wear face masks and say people staying inside should hang wet towels to attract dust and cool the airflow. The health ministry said hundreds of people have needed medical attention because of the smog.

Russian officials have acknowledged that the 10,000 firefighters battling the blazes aren't enough – an assessment echoed by many people, who said the fires swept through their villages in minutes. Several countries sent firefighting aircraft to help battle the blazes. Russian television yesterday showed two Italian firefighting amphibious planes arriving in the Samara region on the Volga River to help save a natural preserve engulfed by fires.

Gennady Onishchenko, the chief sanitary official, yesterday sought to reassure foreign visitors. "An overwhelming part of Russian territory does not pose any danger and is not engulfed in smoke," he said.

Mr Medvedev has donated £7,500 of his own money to help the victims of the fires, and other top federal officials were expected to follow suit, the Kremlin said yesterday.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Representative, Leicester

£25-£30k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major well established nationwide market...

Sales Representative, Birmingham

£25-£30k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major well established nationwide market...

Juniper Security Consultant

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Juniper Security Consultant London (Greater)

C# .NET Developer (SQL, ASP.NET, JS, MVC) London - Finance

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Develo...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment