A devastating forest fire has been raging in Russia for the last 2 weeks, in the midst of a heat wave described by experts as the worst in the thousand-year history of the country. Homes has been destroyed, wildlife and farm stock lost and more than 50 people are dead.
Nearly 50,000 people were battling the fires, which on Friday were raging dangerously close to Russia's main nuclear research center in Sarov. There have also been fears the fires could stir up particles on land in western Russia still contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Meanwhile a dense blanket of smog has covered all over Moscow.
Dense clouds of acrid smoke from peat and forest fires choked Russia’s capital on Friday, seeping into homes and offices, forcing planes to divert and obliging residents to wear surgical masks on their faces.
Air pollution surged to five times normal levels in the city of 10.5 million, the highest sustained contamination since Russia’s worst heatwave in over a century began a month ago.
“My head aches, I feel nausea and I’m scared for my 83-year-old mother, who feels really bad," said 50-year-old businesswoman Marina Orlova in the centre of Moscow.
Officials urged Muscovites to not venture outdoors because of the dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and fine particles in the air. Weather forecasts said the smoke, which has reached even underground metro stations, would stay until Monday.