Moscow Choked by Smoke as Forest, Peat-Bog Fires Spread, Delaying Flights

Moscow choked for a third day under a blanket of smoke as wildfires continued to blaze around the Russian capital.

Air pollution in the city reached three times acceptable levels, Rossiya-24 reported today. The smog shrouding Moscow isn’t expected to clear before the middle of this week, according to the state broadcaster.

Air traffic has returned to normal after 2,000 travellers were stranded at Domodedovo airport south of Moscow last night, Rossiya-24 reported.

Smoke from wildfires in the Moscow region has enveloped the city since Aug. 6, amid a heat wave that has lasted more than a month. Russia, the world’s third-biggest grower of wheat, banned grain exports to the end of the year as crops wither in one of the worst droughts on record.

Moscow’s sixth heat record for August was broken today as the thermometer hit 34.7 degrees Celsius (94.5 degrees Fahrenheit), Interfax reported, citing the state weather service. Eighteen record high temperatures have been registered this summer, the news service said.

While the situation is still “difficult,” fires in several regions have been completely extinguished, the Emergency Situations Ministry said on its website today. The areas worst affected by wildfires are the Nizhny Novgorod, Kirov and Moscow regions, the ministry said.

Firefighting

The smoke has prevented rescuers from using airplanes to put out fires around Moscow, Rossiya-24 reported. More than 2,200 firefighters are battling 35 forest fires and 14 burning peat bogs in the Moscow region, the ministry said. Combustible peat bogs are a legacy of the Soviet era, when swamps were drained to harvest peat as fuel.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov will return from his vacation today, Interfax reported, citing his spokesman Sergei Tsoi. President Dmitry Medvedev broke off his holiday at the seaside resort of Sochi last week as wildfires raging across central Russia took at least 52 lives.

Foreign governments are aiding Russia’s firefighting efforts with manpower and equipment. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon offered to send more than 100 emergency workers, rescue vehicles and firefighting aircraft, according to an e- mailed statement from his press office today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lucian Kim in Moscow at lkim3@bloomberg.net

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