Arctic temperatures blanket Russia, death toll rises toward 40 |

Arctic temperatures blanket Russia, death toll rises toward 40

MOSCOW – Arctic temperatures gripping most of Russia pushed the reported death toll close to 40 on Friday as weather forecasters warned that no major thaw is expected in Moscow before February.Five people died overnight in the capital, city ambulance service chief Igor Elkis said. The toll in Moscow, locked in a deep freeze since late Monday, is now at least 16 while the nationwide toll is at least 38.The true figure, however, is likely higher because many regions have not reported cold deaths.The arctic temperatures have severely taxed parts of the nation’s infrastructure, with electricity use surging to record levels as towns and cities struggle to keep indoor temperatures up and Russians turning to supplemental heating sources including electric radiators to keep warm.The cold wave was even affecting Russia’s southern regions which typically see more temperate winter conditions. In the town of Apsheronsk, some 750 miles south of Moscow, three people were killed when a gas canister exploded after it was improperly hooked to the heating system in a private home. And in the Caucasus region of Adeigei, a wood stove fire killed two people who were trying to heat their home.Overnight temperatures in the region near the Black Sea dropped to 17 degrees below zero.On Friday, Moscow temperatures were slightly warmer than Thursday, when the mercury hit 24 below, the coldest on that date since 1927. Friday’s low was minus 20 degrees. By Monday, the thermometer was expected to reach four below, Moscow weather service spokeswoman Natalya Yershova said.A weather service official, however, told Ekho Moskvy radio that temperatures in the capital were unlikely to rise above that mark before February.Forecasters said the winter has been Moscow’s coldest in a quarter century.Russians are used to the cold – many live in Arctic areas where such temperatures are normal for winter – and frustration and suffering mixed with high spirits or ambivalence.Complaints came amid comical stories about coping by both man and beast.At a zoo in Lipetsk, south of Moscow, director Alexander Osipov said monkeys would be given wine three times a day “to protect against colds,” the RIA-Novosti news agency reported. Rossiya television said a circus sea lion was being treated for pneumonia with brandy body rubs.Vail, Colorado

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