Drunk Russians drown fleeing record heat
More than 1,000 Russians have drowned in the past month as heat-weary residents take to the waters to escape sweltering temperatures that stretched into a third week.
But most of the drownings are alcohol-related, a trend that is worrying the country's top officials.
"Russia's Emergencies Ministry is very worried by the current situation. In the last day alone, 49 people drowned, including two children," Vadim Seryogin, a department head at the ministry, said at a news conference Wednesday.
More than 1,200 people drowned across Russia in June alone, with another 233 between July 5 and July 12.
"The majority of those drowned were drunk," Seryogin said. "The children died because adults simply did not look after them."
Last year, about 3,000 people drowned in Russia.
Vodka-swilling Russians have been flocking to beaches and ponds around Moscow in a bid to escape sweltering temperatures that may push the mercury to 37 C by the weekend. And weather officials said the heat wave will likely last another week.
Russia's worst droughts in a century have destroyed almost 10 million hectares of crops in central and European areas, authorities said. A state of emergency has been declared in 18 Russian provinces, where fire has engulfed more than 26,000 hectares of forest.
The situation has been described as serious by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, who oversees the agriculture sector. But he said authorities have the resources to cope. Various officials have tried to reassure the public that the country has enough grain stockpiled to rule out imports.
(With files from The Associated Press)