Record Russian heat wave sees 1,600 drown

RUSSIANS sweltered yesterday in the hottest weather in decades as the number of drowning deaths since the start of the heat wave topped 1,600.

Yesterday was expected to break a record in Moscow, topping 33C, the highest temperature that day since 1938, according to the state weather centre. Over the weekend, the temperature is forecast by the state weather centre to hit 37Cs in central Russia.

As many cooled down by swimming in rivers and ponds, often with no lifeguards, hundreds have died from drowning, often in alcohol-related accidents.

The emergency ministry said more than 400 people had drowned since the beginning of July, while 1,244 people drowned in June.

“The main reasons for people drowning is swimming in places that are not equipped and the use of alcohol,” an emergency ministry spokesman told the RIA Novosti news agency.

In a shocking case, two teachers at a Moscow school were charged with negligence this week after six children and an instructor drowned during a summer camp trip to a beach on the Sea of Azov in southern Russia.

The children were swept away by strong currents after the teachers allowed them to swim at a beach without safety equipment. One of the teachers was drunk, investigators said.

An emergency drought situation has been declared in 19 of Russia’s 83 regions with crops dying on an estimated 9.6 million hectares of fields.

The drought-struck areas were suffering “colossal destruction,” Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik said at a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev.

July could be a record- breaking month with the average temperature more than six degrees celsius above the norm so far.


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