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Russian fires, heat estimated to kill 15,000, cost economy $15B

MOSCOW — Russia's record heat wave may already have taken 15,000 lives and cost the economy $15 billion as fires and drought ravage the country.

At least 7,000 people may have died in Moscow as a result of the heat, and the nationwide death toll is likely to be at least twice that figure, according to Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, a 15-year-old Internet weather service that gathers information from around the world.

"The Russian population affected by extreme heat is at least double the population of Moscow, and the death toll in Russia from the 2010 heat wave is probably at least 15,000, and may be much higher," Masters said late Monday on his blog.

While the official death toll from fires in central Russia is 52, the heat and smoke in Moscow have almost doubled the city's normal death rate to about 700 a day, Andrei Seltsovsky, head of the city's public health department, said Monday.

Russia's worst heat wave on record may slice 1 percent off Russia's $1.5 trillion economy this year because of lower agricultural output and reduced activity in other areas such as industry, Alexander Morozov, chief economist at HSBC Holdings PLC in Moscow, said in an e-mail Tuesday.

China toll rises: The death toll from landslides in northwestern China more than doubled Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Tian Baozhong, the director of civil affairs in Gansu province, said the death toll now stood at 702, up from 337 on Monday. The government said 1,042 were missing and about 45,000 were evacuated. The disaster in Gansu province was caused when a river swollen by rain and blocked by debris burst its banks, swamping entire mountain villages in the province.

Kashmir landslides: Rescuers in the desert mountainsides in Indian-controlled Kashmir recovered more bodies, with the death toll from flash floods rising to 165, the AP reported. Army and paramilitary soldiers continued clearing roads and removing the debris of hundreds of homes flattened in the Ladakh region. About 200 people remained missing, said an army spokesman, Lt. Col. J.S. Brar.

Russian fires, heat estimated to kill 15,000, cost economy $15B 08/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 9:22pm]
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