Russia weather cools but rubbish fire irritates Moscow

20 August 2010

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Temperatures in Moscow yesterday plunged to their lowest levels for six weeks as a record heatwave came to an end, but air quality was again hit by a massive rubbish dump fire outside the capital.

Temperatures were down to a pleasant 24°C, a stark contrast to the numbers edging almost 40°C recorded the week earlier, while rain was forecast later in the week.

The emergencies ministry said it was continuing to eliminate the wildfires that triggered an unprecedented crisis, with blazes now covering just 11,200 hectares nationwide.

At the peak of the crisis, some 200,000 hectares had been ablaze in forest and peat bog fires that killed over 50 people.

The rubbish dump fire started overnight in the district of Shchelkovsky, which lies 35 kilometres northwest of Moscow, and was still covering an area of two hectares in the afternoon, an AFP correspondent reported.

The flames had been visible within a radius of several kilometres overnight and a strong smell of burned plastic could be felt by residents in the east of the Russian capital.

The cause of the fire is not clear but the authorities insisted there was no risk to the population or to a neighbouring forest.

“The threat is under-estimated and our authorities have not understood to what extent this fire was serious,” Vladimir Silviak of the environmental group Eco-Defence said.

“Toxic products are being produced from burned plastic bottles. It’s even more dangerous than the products from the peat fires.”

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