July 28, 2010: MUSCOVITES sweltered as record temperatures hit 37.4 degrees while nearly 2000 Russians have drowned trying to beat the heat. Monday's temperature in the capital was the hottest since records began 130 years ago, the Hydrometeorological Monitoring Service said. It surpassed the previous high set in July 1920 during the Civil War. Unusually high temperatures have contributed to record deaths by drowning across Russia. Most of those who drowned were intoxicated, the government's Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper said. The heatwave has also hit Russia's economy, with drought damage to almost 10 million hectares, or 32 per cent of all land under cultivation, said Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik. The ministry has declared weather-related emergencies in 23 crop-producing regions. Russian food grain prices may double in 2010 from last year because of the drought, the Grain Producers' Union warned. One company, OAO GAZ, a van and truck maker controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, halted production for two weeks because of the heat. Workers were sent home on Monday on a ''corporate vacation'' until August 8. The country's chief health official has urged companies to adopt a siesta regime of breaks for workers during the hottest part of the day to avoid injury and illness. Officials have also urged farmers to start harvesting at night to protect their combines from mechanical failure during the daytime heat. Muscovites' misery was compounded by thick smoke from burning peat bogs east of the city. Twenty-one separate peat-bog fires were burning on Monday and two Il-76 transport planes, capable of carrying 42 tonnes of water, and a Be-200 amphibious plane are fighting the fires, the ministry said on its website.
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