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Russians dying for a dip

Moscow is reaching boiling point.  It’s hotter here than many African resorts causing asphalt to melt and sales of ice cream and air conditioners to rocket.

Last modified: 21 Jul 2010 18:19
Picture from AFP

My Siberian cat greets me at the front door with a grumble before moping off in the direction of the bathroom, now the coolest spot in my sweltering apartment.  The thermometer on the windowsill put there 6 months ago to give me an idea of how many layers to wear during the coldest winter in 50 years, now reads 40 degrees centigrade.

Moscow is reaching boiling point.  It’s hotter here than many African resorts causing asphalt to melt and sales of ice cream and air conditioners to rocket.

There’s even been talk of introducing Spanish style siestas in the afternoon.

Park fountains are now open-air plunge pools for hoards of red-faced teens, “NO SWIMMING” signs on the banks of the murky Moscow River are ignored by hundreds in search of a quick dip.   

On Tuesday 71 people in Russia drowned on a single day, many jumping into rivers and lakes well under the influence.  Almost 2500 people have drowned this year, 1244 of them in June. Health experts have warned Russians to steer clear of alcohol in favour of cold showers and green tea.  The advice doesn’t seem to be catching on.

Elsewhere in the country several Russian regions have declared a state of emergency after the worst drought in living memory.  In Saratov bordering Kazakhstan temperatures in excess of 50 degrees centigrade have wiped out a third of the wheat harvest.  The government’s busy dishing out loans and subsidies to help worst affected areas.  The price of food is already starting to go the same way as the temperature. 

In a country famed for it’s cold, many here in Russia are finding it very difficult to adapt.  If this is the shape of summers to come the country's going to have to learn fast how to stay cool.

Not everyone’s having a hard time though.  According to the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper some city taxi drivers are charging extra for air conditioning.  Clearly some Russians are adapting faster than others.