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Extreme Cold Hangs Over Russia

The city of Chita on 18 January (ITAR-TASS) 19 January 2006 -- Russia today continues to grapple with a persistent spell of extreme cold.

Weather forecasts said Moscow faces a fourth day of a very cold weather, with temperatures dropping to minus 31 degrees Celsius overnight.

Moscow's ambulance service said seven people died of exposure in the capital over the previous 24 hours. That is nearly double the four deaths recorded during the first two nights of the cold spell that swept into the capital late on 16 January from Siberia.

Outside Moscow, dozens of homes and thousands of people were without heat overnight after a main hot-water pipe broke. A similar accident left thousands shivering in Siberia's Chita Oblast, near the Chinese border 4,700 kilometers east of Moscow.

The cold snap coincided with today's Russian Orthodox holiday of the Epiphany, and many Russians defied warnings from doctors and priests, keeping up an annual ritual by jumping into holes cut into thick ice on rivers and ponds.

The ritual imitates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.


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