Lena Melnikova: Dark rumours in a city suffering a nightmare of heat and smog

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For weeks now, life in Moscow has been like living on the set of a Tarkovsky film. We haven't seen blue skies for ages – just various shades of a bright-greyish nightmare. But yesterday was the worst ever. I did not want to get out of bed to face another obnoxiously hot morning. Overnight, the wind blew more smoke in from the blazing forests and moors around the city. The smog settled among the trees and apartment blocks, obstructing the sun and views of distant buildings.

The smell of burning gets into your clothes, hair, even the furniture and curtains. It makes your throat itch and eyes water. Most people are coughing, complaining of headaches and nausea. The carbon monoxide level was 10 times above normal yesterday. No one knows what the health implications are.

But it's the only topic of conversation. The shops have sold out of air-conditioning units and fans and no one knows when more are due in. Even our pets are suffering – I try and walk my dog, but it's sad to see her snuffling around in the dead grass, with no fresh air. At home, she lies around listlessly.

In offices, no one bothers about a dress code anymore – it's all mini-skirts and shorts, see-through tops and flip-flops. The latest fashion is for face masks like the ones people donned during the bird and then swine flu panics. This time, we need them.

Ironically, when the heatwave hit first, we Muscovites kept complaining about the Tube being too stuffy – but nearly six weeks on it's an underground oasis, a smog-free microclimate. Before, we relished the summer as an opportunity to get out of our cars. Now, we relish sitting in the ones with air-conditioning, some of us talking about sleeping in them.

Little work is being done. Some bosses are allowing people to finish early. But who wants to leave an air conditioned office for the melting asphalt and the smoking hot shoebox of a home?

It's a miracle the city continues: no power cuts, no major fires, no mass heart attacks, no panic.... but this being Russia, there are dark rumours. The latest is that the Americans are testing their new climatic weapon on us. Some things here never change – whatever happens, blame the Americans.

And now the poor confused weather guys cannot even promise any relief for the next few weeks. God, have mercy on us.

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