US warns travelers to Russia of fire risk

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The US State Department warned Americans on Friday to "carefully consider" plans to travel to parts of Russia in light of devastating fires ravaging areas near Moscow.

"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 department said in a warning set to expire September 5.

"The hazardous air quality means that persons with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low. Everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors," it added.

"Persons contemplating travel to Moscow and surrounding areas should carefully consider their plans in light of these developments."

The warning noted that "fire-related conditions can change quickly," and urged Americans planning travel Moscow and its environs to carefully monitor weather conditions and airline cancellations.

Moscow was choked in noxious smog Friday emanating from forest fires that have already killed 52 people.

The country's defense ministry has ordered the evacuation of missiles from a depot outside Moscow as authorities warned that fires could reactivate contamination in an area hit by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

© 2010 AFP

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