Smog from fires again blankets Moscow

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Grey smog returned to blanket Moscow on Monday as peat and forest fires showed no sign of abating in the countryside surrounding the Russian capital.

The spires of the Kremlin and the golden onion domes of Orthodox churches were barely visible from afar as Muscovites wheezed their way to work in air that reeked of smoke.

The capital was blanketed by smoke for much of last week, but the last few days had seen a respite with cleaner air moving in. Officials have warned that the concentration of toxic particles could be 10 times higher than normal.

Eleven peat fires and 16 forest fires were still burning in the Moscow region on Monday morning, the emergencies ministry said.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu lashed out at people for creating the conditions for fires with barbecues and camp fires during their weekend leisure activities.

"People need to understand that they need to understand all the rules if they go into the forest. Our coming week of work depends on how they spent their days off," he said in comments broadcast on state television.

Forecasters have warned there is no chance of the heatwave relenting for the moment, with temperatures for between 35-42 degrees Celsius (95-107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) expected in Moscow and central Russia over the next days.

© 2010 AFP

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