Russians and their crops wilt in heat

Russians and their crops wilt in heat

Millions of acres of wheat destroyed

The heat has been besting decades-old records here. At 33.6°C, Friday was the hottest July 16 ever in Moscow, topping the record set in the summer of 1938. It was even hotter on Saturday, at 35°C, though not a record, and temperatures were expected to remain in that range for the rest of the week.

The sultry blast was almost unbearable for Muscovites. Work in the capital slowed to a crawl, and residents crept from sweltering apartments to lounge in the parks and on riverbanks, stripping off clothes and taking ill-advised dips in the Moscow River.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations reported that 77 people drowned in Russia on Saturday and Sunday, adding to the grim total of more than 400 people so far in July and 1,244 people in June. Most of them, if past reports on Russia’s extraordinary numbers of drownings are any guide, were drunk, and the numbers were not sharply out of line with those of previous years.

Making the most of it

For the most part, however, Muscovites coped as best they could, and some even found benefits in the scorching. Yulia B Simachyov, a 29-year-old, praised the heat for loosening up Russian dress codes. “Skirts, T-shirts, shorts,” Simachyov said. “It’s wonderful.”
Water, whether in a relatively clean fountain or a more questionable local waterway, was the most common place of refuge. “I spend every day on the beach and I swim, too, though it is not allowed and the water is filthy,” said Andrei Rabotin, a university student. The “beach” he referred to was actually a sandy riverbank on the Moscow River, where the stream loops through a park.

In the black earth region of southern Russia, where summer showers are the norm, the relentless sun withered 24 million acres sown with wheat, barley and other crops.