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Fires, Heat Bear Down Further On Russian Capital

Firefighters battle a blaze in the Losiny Ostrov park near Moscow's Bogorodskoye district on August 3.
Smoke from deadly wildfires and an intense heat wave have caused air-quality levels in Moscow to fall to an eight-year low.

The state agency that monitors pollution says that at night the concentration of carbon monoxide is almost six times the acceptable level.

"Air pollution surged to four to 10 times [above the maximum safe levels] in the early morning hours, which is a new high," says Elena Lezina, an expert with Mosekomonitoring.

In Moscow, residents like Nadezhda say it is difficult to breathe.

"It is a really serious problem, especially in the morning it's not even possible to open the windows. Nothing helps," she says.

The view from the seventh floor of a building in Kolomna, outside Moscow, on August 4.
"Even though they say that air conditioner or wet sheets [can help you to breathe], even so smoke comes into the apartment either through the door or the stairway."

State Of Emergency

Record temperatures that have blanketed European Russia since mid-June have sparked forest fires in 17 regions in central Russia, including Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, and Kazan.

Hundreds of new fires are being spotted every day as overworked firefighters race to extinguish the blazes. More than 500 major fires are reported in central Russia alone.

The fires have been burning for weeks and have already killed at least 48 people. Around 3,000 homes have been destroyed.

Russian citizens are begging the government for help. In the Viksunsky district south of Nizhny Novgorod, fires reportedly burned for two weeks, killing 19 people and destroying 650 homes.

The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal investigation into official negligence.

Around 10,000 firefighters and tens of thousands of troops are battling the fires throughout Russia. A state of emergency has been declared in seven regions.

People check the ruins of private storage buildings and garages that were destroyed in the village of Ostfievo on August 3.
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu has admitted that some fires are "out of control."

No End In Sight

On August 3, fires burned dangerously close to Sarov, a town in the Nizhny Novgorod region, which houses Russia's nuclear research center. The situation was so serious that Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the state nuclear agency Rosatom, personally flew down to oversee firefighting efforts.

One forest fire destroyed a naval logistics base at Kolomna, outside Moscow -- destroying aeronautical equipment, aircraft, buildings, and vehicles.

So far, more than 130,000 hectares of land have been scorched.

Late on August 3, due to thick smoke, six planes were unable to land at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow and were sent to an emergency airport. Officials report that currently all Moscow airports are operating normally.

Experts recommend Muscovites stay indoors as much as possible, and when outside to wear gauze bandages over their mouths.

Weather forecasters say the smoke will not clear until tonight or the morning of August 5. The high temperature is predicted to stay around 38-40 degrees until at least next week.

with agency reports
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