US allows Moscow embassy families to return home amid smog

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The United States said Tuesday it was allowing both family members of its Moscow embassy staff and some personnel to return to the United States because of smog induced by massive forest fires.

The State Department also urged Americans to postpone travel to Russia until the problems caused by the wildfires improve.

"The Department of State has authorized the departure of dependents and non-critical mission personnel from the US Embassy in Moscow," the department said in a statement.

Authorized departure means embassy personnel and their families can return home to the United States at US government expense.

The smog from the peat and forest fires burning in the countryside around 100 kilometers (60 miles) outside the city has choked Moscow for days and has been seeping into apartments, offices and even underground into the metro.

The State Department said: "Ongoing forest fires and extreme high temperatures in the Moscow region and surrounding areas of central Russia have produced hazardous levels of air pollution and caused numerous flight delays and cancellations in Moscow.

"The hazardous air quality means that persons with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should seek to relocate to unaffected areas of the country and avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors."

© 2010 AFP

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