Smog increases as wildfires spread in Russia

“In the last 24 hours, 269 new wildfires have flared up in Russia. As many as 276 wildfires have been extinguished. Currently, 554 wildfires are raging on an area of over 190,000 hectares,” said Gen Vladimir Stepanov, Chief of the Crisis Management Centre of the Emergency Situations Ministry.

In an interview to state-run Rossiya 24 channel Stepanov, however, said in Sarov, the former Soviet nuclear weapons factory-turned into Federal Nuclear Centre, the wildfires have been completely extinguished.

Wildfires continued to rage across much of the central part of European Russia as the country experienced an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures of up to and above 40 degrees Celsius.

On Saturday, Moscow saw its worst air pollution in 2010, with carbon monoxide levels being 6.5 times more than the maximum allowable concentration. The concentration of other toxic substances in the city air was nine times above the norm.

On Sunday morning, the situation has slightly improved but concentration of toxic substances still remains three times more than the permissible level, Moscow Ecological Monitoring Service said.

However, for the third day the dense smog has disrupted the air traffic at Moscow’s Vnukovo and Domodedovo international airports in the south-west and south of the Russian capital. The Sheremetyevo international airport in the north is functioning normally due to better visibility.

Up to 2,000 passengers were stranded at the Moscow’s Domodedovo international airport when major delays hit their flights. Senior official of the civil aviation department Sergei Neradko said about 50 flights have been cancelled and over two thousand passengers willing to fly out of Moscow are stranded.

Meanwhile, under scathing criticism Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is cutting short his vacation abroad and returning home.

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