Lone tourists walk along Red Square in heavy smog, caused by peat fires in nearby forests, in central Moscow August 9, 2010. REUTERS / Alexander Demianchuk

By Dmitry Solovyov
Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:50am EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Several thousand Muscovites are thought to have died in July alone from this year's unprecedented heatwave and August could add more fatalities to the grim statistics, a Russian scientist said on Tuesday.

Moscow, a metropolis of over 10 million people, suffered from 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.

"This situation was absolutely easy to forecast," he told a news conference. "The only thing I blame myself for ... is that my estimate (of deaths) was too low at the start of the heat."

"But we have never had experience estimating such monstrous heat, merely because we had never had such heat before." …

"What makes the situation in Moscow and other big cities of central Russia different, is this abnormal heat being coupled with a high level of air pollution as a result of forest fires," Revich said. "Nature set up such a grim experiment on us."

A total of 27,724 fires, including 1,133 at burning peat bogs, have been detected in Russia since July, Emergencies Ministry department chief Yuri Brazhnikov told reporters. …

Heat probably killed thousands in Moscow: scientist

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