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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Swelters in Record Heat

MTAbdulkarimova getting out of Ostankinsky Pond on Tuesday. She says it is too hot to worry about a swimming ban.
Yevgeny Taraskin, 25, went to the pond near the Ostankino television tower during his lunch break Tuesday. He took off his white dress shirt and shiny black shoes, and sat on the grass.

"It is so hot. I am dying from this heat. I don't want to go back to work," he said.

And rightly so. Tuesday was the hottest day in Moscow in more than a century, and a top doctor warned city residents not to work too hard, due to the heat.

Taraskin, a logistics manager, joined thousands of people on the banks of the city's many rivers, lakes and ponds Tuesday even though swimming is banned in most of them.

"I am not going to swim. I just relax here," Taraskin said. He said he would never take a dip in a place where ducks and dogs swam together.

People around him, however, ignored a warning sign and frolicked in the water. One woman was even topless -- a rare sight in central Moscow.

Three teenage girls swam together in their tops and skirts. "I could not put on my swimming suit because my mom would know that I was going to swim and I am not allowed to swim," said Natasha Atulina, 14.

Her friend Yana Abdulkarimova, 13, said she has been swimming in the pond all month and did not care that swimming there was forbidden. "It's too hot to think about such things," she said.

The temperature hit 32.2 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, a record for May 29 not matched since 1891, said Irina Smetanina, a spokeswoman for the federal weather bureau. The heat wave reached Moscow from Central Asia on May 23.

It is the first May since 1879 that Moscow has seen a five-day spell of temperatures over 30 C.

The weather is only expected to start getting cooler on Friday.

The Ostankinsky Pond is located next to a tram stop, and passengers disembarked and took off their outer clothing to take a dip before continuing on to their destinations.

"I was passing by and stopped to jump in," said courier Alexei Sorokin, 19. "I will tell my boss I was stuck in a traffic jam."

Twelve people drowned last week in Moscow water holes, compared with just one in the same period last year, emergency response officials said. Last week, 48 people were rescued while swimming, compared with seven last year.


Igor Tabakov / MT
A man relaxing near the tram stop at Ostankinsky Pond. Passengers stopped for a dip before resuming their trips.
At least 26 people have drowned in Moscow's water holes since the start of the month, emergency response officials said. Alcohol usually plays a role in drownings.

A group of Czech tourists said they had come to visit the Ostankino tower but found that it was closed to visitors. So they bathed in the pond. "We are too exhausted by the sun and have no energy left to travel around the city," said Stanislav Tresa, 50, a railroad inspector from Uhersky Brod.

None of the swimmers paid any attention to a man offering boat and catamaran rentals on the pond. "People usually like to rent after 8 p.m., but we'll be locked up by that time," said the attendant, Vladimir Seryogin.

One of the country's top doctors, Gennady Onishchenko, advised Moscow residents not to work too hard. "It would be a good idea to work in an air-conditioned place during the peak heat hours and to take extra hours to rest," he said, Interfax reported.

He discouraged people from visiting Moscow water holes as a cure for the heat, saying the sun combined with high temperatures could be particularly dangerous for young children and the elderly.

Not only people, but also some animals are being forbidden from swimming. Walruses in the Moscow Zoo are not being allowed to swim in their pool because the water is too warm for them, said Raisa Korolyova, a zoo spokeswoman. They can swim only in a small basin in their cage, she said.

Korolyova said most animals in the zoo were lolling in the shady areas of their enclosures.

For people, however, sitting under the shade of trees in the park could be dangerous, Onishchenko said, because of a tick-borne virus that reached Moscow this year. Ticks are also enjoying the shade, and a bite could cause encephalitis, an illness characterized by apathy and abnormal sleepiness.

One thing that is still safe for those suffering from the heat is ice cream. Sales have skyrocketed 60 percent since last month, said Valery Yelkhov, director of the Union of Ice Cream Makers, Interfax reported.

Alexei Loginov, a driver for the Russky Kholod ice cream maker, said he was overwhelmed with orders. "Usually I bring ice cream to about 15 stores, but today there are more than 30," he said. "I am busy with work and have no time to think about the heat."

Fearing a blackout, Unified Energy Systems limited electricity to Moscow companies after a surge in air conditioner use Monday. The blackout did not materialize, but 300 elevators stopped, stranding 38 people, when small heat-related fires broke out at several power substations, Interfax reported.

UES spokeswoman Tatyana Melyayeva said no limits were imposed Tuesday.

A high of 33 to 35 C is predicted for Wednesday, but the temperature should drop to a cooler 25 C by Sunday, the federal weather bureau said.

If the drop in temperature happens too quickly, Moscow could face a violent thunderstorm, the Moscow weather bureau warned.