Moscow death rate has doubled since wildfires

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SCORCHING heat and smoke have caused death rates in Moscow to almost double, a city official said yesterday, as smog from forest and peat fires covered Russia’s capital for a third week.

Firefighters battled wildfires covering an area bigger than Greater London, in what the chief state weather forecaster said he believed to be Russia’s worst heat wave for a millennium.

“The average death rate in the city during normal times is between 360 and 380 people per day,” said Andrei Seltsovsky, Moscow’s health department chief. “Today, we are around 700.”

While officials have predicted an end to the fires within a week, Muscovites have been warned to stay indoors, and there have been reports that morgues in the city have run out of room.

Russia’s worst drought in decades has also spooked world grain markets, driving wheat prices up at the fastest rate in more than 30 years and raising the prospect of a food crisis.