MoscowA summer heat wave, and smog from wildfires, have caused the death rate in the Moscow area to double, according to Andrei Seltsovsky, chief of the city’s health department.

He said there are normally 360 to 380 natural deaths in the Moscow area each day, but that had risen to about 700 a day with the heat and smoke.  He also said city morgues were reaching capacity. 

Daily highs have hovered around 100+ degrees for more than ten weeks. The Russian Meteorological Center has said this is the worst heat wave in over 1000 years. And more than 550 wildfires are burning throughout Russia.

Smoke from wildfires burning in portions of central Russia have raised the amount of particles in the air to 3.4 times the permitted amount.  Industrial plants in and around Moscow have been asked to cut back on their emissions to help reduce the air pollution.

There are many concerns related to the fires. Forests that were contaminated by nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl accident have burned, and the health effects of breathing that smoke are unknown.  A nuclear reprocessing plant in the southern Urals is being threatened by a wildfire, a state of emergency has been declared in that area. And the grain harvest has been hard hit by fire, heat and drought. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said that there may be a ban on grain exports due to the shortage.