Heat Wave and Vodka A Deadly Russian Mix; Hundreds Drown

Hundreds of Russians are drowning every week during a vicious heat wave

July 15, 2010, 10:29 AM

July 14, 2010 -- A vicious heat wave in Russia has people there flocking to the nearest bodies of water in search of relief. But the scorching temperatures, combined with many Russians' infamous drinking habits, have resulted in the drowning deaths of hundreds of people every week.

Last week, 233 Russians, some of them children, died in drowning accidents according to the Emergencies Ministry. Over 1,200 died in the month of June.

"The majority of those drowned were drunk," ministry official Vadim Seryogin said on Wednesday. "The children died because adults simply did not look after them."

Russians have rushed for the shores of rivers and lakes, often toting bottles of vodka and beer.

"It's very, very common," said Nadezdha Voronova, picnicking with her family by a Moscow pond. "[First we] drink, then go swimming. After swimming, we go drinking. It's like a circle."

Last week, six young summer campers drowned in the southern Sea of Azov while camp counsellors were drinking.

"It's a problem, it's a problem," Voronova sighs.

The heat wave, which has lasted for weeks, has Russia suffering its worst drought in 130 years. In some parts of the country, temperatures have reach 105 degrees. Thursday's high in Moscow was expected to reach 93 degrees. The average temperature in July for the city is 76 degrees.

Russia is Boiling; No End in Sight

Sixteen regions have declared states of emergency and an area of crops the size of Indiana has been destroyed. The government has stepped in with increased loans in order to help farmers avoid bankruptcy.

In Moscow, trucks are spraying down the streets to keep asphalt from melting. The changing of the guard ceremony at the Kremlin has been cancelled for this Saturday. Russia's chief doctor has recommended afternoon siestas instead of being outside.

The last time Moscow felt such a long heat wave was in 1972, according to the Hydrometerological Center of Russia. The heat shows no signs of abating, temperatures in the coming days are expected to rise to between 91 and a record-breaking 99 degrees Fahrenheit before dropping off next week, but only to around 88 degrees.

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