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Image for Moscow smog: 'like a badly-ventilated disco'

Moscow smog: 'like a badly-ventilated disco'

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Cafebabel ENG (NS)


Bandit looking receptionists, vodka deaths and travelling long distances every weekend to escape the after-effects of Russia's forest fires. The heat came first, a wave with an intensity unknown to the Russians. It's an effort to get through the days, the nights are worse: few places are equipped with ventilators, let alone with air conditioning. Images from a Spanish journalist based in the residential district of Belyaevo, half an hour from the city centre


Moscow's like a badly-ventilated disco: clothes smell of ash, your eyes and nose sting and when you blow your nose the tissue comes out black. No wonder Muscovites like Viacheslav are trying to get out: 'I've got a house in Kazan (Russia's eight largest city – ed), so I went on Friday and came back on Monday morning to go to work. I can't stay in Moscow, I can't stand it.' Pictured, Kazan, which is about fourteen hours away by train (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

Smog ravaged

At the end of July, forest fires ravaged 750, 000 hecatres of forest in central and eastern Russia. Nasa satellite images show a smoke cloud of 3, 000 kilometres from the sky (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

No infrastructure used to temperature

Just two weeks before, 1, 500 people drowned across the country, the majority being vodka-related deaths. The police responded by restricting access to ponds and lakes to avoid the chances of citizens going for a dip; this took place in Pushkino, a town at the crossing of the Ucha and Serebryanka rivers, northeast of Moscow (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

Escape high temperatures

Dozens of groups would cross the forest, crushing the weeds and jumping walls to avoid the militia and be able to enjoy a Sunday on the banks of the lake (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

54 dead

The mortality rate has doubled in the last few weeks because of the smog, according to the mayor's office of Moscow. The 700 deaths a day are down to issues such as high blood pressure and breathing problems. Organisations such as Greenpeace accuse the Kremlin of reducing the number of people dealing with fires and of dismantling the fire prevention structures (Image: ©Argemino Barro/


 The smog has also cost 2, 000 people their homes (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

Citizen reaction

There have been sprouts of citizen aid. A church on Stanislavski street is collecting materials to help those rendered homeless by the smog. 'People come everyday to leave us all kinds of things: clothes, saucepans, toys, pillows,' explains Tania, one of the organisers of the initiative. 'In the afternoon volunteers come to label and pile up the donations, which we then send to the most affected zones. Any little thing can be of value' (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

Smoke bandits

The smog has also penetrated the Pushkin state Russian language institute, where the windows remain tightly shut against the extreme heat. Some students sport masks in the hallways. The receptionists have stuck posters onto the windows to try and keep the pollution out and smothered handkerchiefs across their faces, making them look eerily like bandits (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

Students returning home

Some students have already thrown in the towel. Stefan from Switzerland is going home sooner than expected, afraid he will become ill. 'My housemates have taken the opportunity to go and visit St Petersburg. I wanted to do the same but then this happened here and I don't want to stay' (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

Metro: smoke bunker

Even the underground city which is the metro system of Moscow, built to withstand nuclear threat, has been invaded by the fumes. As masked people pass by, it's if the threat of a cold war has just been announced (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

Rain's coming

Nevertheless, 10 August was a clearer Tuesday, even welcoming a trickle of rain. The most optimistic Russians believe that things will return to normalno by the end of the week (Image: ©Argemino Barro/

Translated from El verano al otro lado del telón de humo