Beverley Ann D'Cruz, staff writer
August 4, 2010 — Moscow disappears under the thickest fog blanket yet this summer. Firefighters get no help from the hot and dry weather.
Raging forest and peat wildfires have burned through villages, forests and a military base in Russia leaving 48 people dead and thousands of acres charred. The grave situation even made Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cut his summer vacation short to hold emergency talks on the matter.
In the last 24 hours firefighters extinguished 293 fires. But the intense heat is proving to be a big challenge as it helped spark another 403. In addition, 520 other wildfires continue to burn. They have already engulfed more than 188,000 hectares.
On Wednesday, one of the thickest fog covers blanketed Moscow. Subway passengers complained of suffering from stinging eyes as a result of the smoke-filled air that is carrying harmful gasses, including high levels of carbon monoxide. Other residents are having difficulty breathing.
In Russia's east, firefighters are are concentrating on battling flames that are getting too close to a highly confidential nuclear research facility. As a precaution all radioactive and explosive materials have been removed from the site. More than 2,000 firefighters have been deployed to help control the flames around the area there.
Another fear is the fires spreading through forests contaminated by the 1986 explosion of the Chornobyl nuclear plant. Authorities say the fires have the potential to send radioactive dust into the air.“Fine dust that contains chemical pollutants is the real danger and is much more poisonous than radioactivity,” said Ravil Bakin of the Institute for Safe Development of Nuclear Energy.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no relief in the forecast for the next few days. Temperatures are expected to hit about 38°C, which will continue to challenge fire fighting efforts.
With files from The Associated Press