Moscow emergency health calls up 22 percent: mayor

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Calls to the emergency health services in Moscow grew by one-fifth amid a record heatwave, its mayor said Tuesday as he outlined the scale of the city's health crisis.

Meeting strongman Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the first time since returning from a much-criticised holiday, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov said ambulances and clinics were fully mobilised to deal with the crisis.

"Ambulances are working on a regime of full mobilisation and clinics and hospitals are working without days off," the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted him as saying.

"Calls to the emergency services have gone up in comparison to a quiet period by 22 percent," Luzhkov said.

The Moscow mayor made no mention of the death rate after the head of the city health department said Monday the daily mortality rate in Moscow had doubled and morgues were overflowing with bodies.

The federal government has yet to confirm that statistic.

As Moscow started choking under the worst smog in living memory last week, Luzhkov initially refused to return from holiday, with his aides earning ridicule in the tabloid press by denying there was any crisis in the city.

He finally returned on Sunday, with his deputy explaining the 73-year-old mayor had been absent for treatment on a "sports injury".

Putin said Luzhkov had been right to come back and pointedly made no effort to disguise the fact the mayor had been on holiday.

"You of course did the right thing by coming back from holiday. You did it on time," Putin said.

Luzhkov, who has served as Moscow mayor for almost two decades, is one of Russia's longest-lasting officials, but has come under increasing pressure over the last months as the Kremlin reshuffles powerful regional bosses.

© 2010 AFP

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