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Death rate doubles in Moscow; heatwave continues
Moscow, Aug 9 (Agencies):
Published on 9 Aug. 2010 10:09 PM IST
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Moscow’s health chief has confirmed the mortality rate has doubled as a heatwave and wildfire smog continued to grip the Russian capital.
There were twice the usual number of bodies in the city’s morgues, Andrei Seltsovsky told reporters.
“On normal days, between 360 and 380 die - now it’s around 700,” he said.
Figures were not being reported immediately for other parts of central Russia, which have had similar droughts and wildfires for more than a month.
Moscow under smog health warning Putin answers angry fires blogger Mr Seltsovsky did not give a time frame but earlier reports spoke of death rates in Moscow rising between 30% and 50% in July, compared with the same period last year.
Moscow, he said, had 1,500 places in its morgues and 1,300 of these were currently occupied.
While stressing there was still capacity, he added that about 30% of bereaved people asked to have the body kept in a morgue for more than three days, “which slightly complicates the situation”.
The concentration of carbon monoxide in Moscow was still more than double acceptable safety norms on Monday as smog from peat and forest wildfires continued to blanket the city.
Temperatures of more than 35C (95F) are forecast for the city until Thursday.
According to Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency, Moscow airports were working normally on Monday after earlier disruptions due to smog. Since the second half of July, at least 52 deaths in Russia as a whole have been attributed directly to fires, which have destroyed hundreds of rural homes.
Mr Seltsovsky did not attribute the rise in the mortality rate to the heatwave or smog.
But doctors, speaking off the record, have talked of morgues filling with victims of heat stroke and smoke ailments.
Reuters news agency reported on Sunday that one Moscow doctor had written on his anonymous blog - since deleted - of the stench from bodies piling up in the basement of his clinic where the fridges were full.
“[But] we can’t give that diagnosis [heat stroke and smoke ailments] - we don’t want to be sacked,” the blogger wrote.
“We have families to feed.”
Another doctor at a major hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that staff had been instructed by senior management not to link patients’ illnesses to the heatwave.
A spokeswoman for the Moscow city government declined to comment on the doctors’ claims, the agency adds.
The head of the state weather service, Alexander Frolov, said on Monday that the heatwave of 2010 was the worst in 1,000 years of recorded Russian history.
“It’s an absolutely unique phenomenon - nothing like it can be seen in the archives,” he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

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