With forests covering two-thirds of Russia's territory, wildfires break out every summer. But in previous years, they most often affected the sparsely populated territories of Siberia and the Far East. This year, deadly wildfires engulfed European Russia, where four-fifths of the country's 142 million people live.
At the height of the disaster, more than 800 fires raged in over 800,000 hectares in central Russia, which had almost no rains this summer as temperatures soared above 40 degrees Centigrade, almost 20 degrees above the annual average. Over 2,000 houses have burned, leaving thousands of people homeless; dozens have died in burning houses and fighting the fires. The Russian nuclear agency, Rosatom, had to remove all radioactive and explosive material from the Federal Nuclear Centre near the town of Sarov in central Russia, as forest fires came within 4,000 metres of the secret facilities where Russian nuclear weapons are made. More than 200,000 fire-fighters and army personnel battled the fires across the country..."
The New Nation - Internet Edition: "Several thousand Muscovites are thought to have died in July alone from this year's unprecedented heatwave and August could add more fatalities, a Russian scientist said on Tuesday, Thomson Reuters reported.
Moscow, a metropolis of over 10 million people, has suffered intense heat since late June, with day temperatures sometimes nearing 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
The crisis shriveled a third of Russia's grain crop, shaved billions off this year's economic growth and killed at least 54 people in wildfires. The heat subsided on Tuesday.
Citing a report by the Moscow Registry Office, Boris Revich, a senior demography and ecology researcher at Russia's Academy of Sciences, said 5,840 more Muscovites had died in July than in the same month last year.
Revich said he believed the overwhelming majority of these additional deaths had been caused by the fierce heatwave..."