Record Low Temperature Kills 300 People in Moscow

Russia scrambled to cope with record low temperatures and fierce snowstorms Wednesday as armored personnel carriers towed trolleybuses through Vladivostok streets, military jets bombed ice covering rivers in the southern Kuban region to prevent flooding, several airports were closed and the number of Muscovites dead from hypothermia reached 300, far surpassing the total number of those who froze to death last winter.

Central Russia is seeing its coldest winter in 24 years, with temperatures dropping to a low of minus 33 degrees Celsius in recent days, media reported. Overnight, the temperature hit minus 27 degrees, leaving three people dead and 29 in the hospital, Interfax reported Wednesday. Now 300 people have died from the cold in Moscow, well above the 205 who died last winter.

"Last December was abnormally cold. The average monthly temperature was 5 degrees lower than expected," a spokeswoman for the Moscow Meteorological Center said, Reuters reported.

About 29,000 people have crowded into Moscow hospitals and clinics to be treated for the flu in the first six days of the year, Interfax reported.

A snowstorm blew through Moscow in the early hours of Wednesday morning, snarling traffic throughout the city for much of the day. The snow forced the closure of Vnukovo Airport for several hours in the morning, and poor visibility led to the diversion of six inbound flights from Sheremetyevo Airport. Airports in Anapa, Cheboksary, Nalchik, Kirov and Barnaul were shut down for parts of the day. On the Far Eastern island of Sakhalin, a heavy snowstorm paralyzed traffic and cut the island off from the mainland as the airport was closed and the ferry service was halted. The airport reopened late Wednesday night.

In Vladivostok, City Hall turned to the navy to help ship passengers. Television showed the navy's APCs dragging trolleybuses along several snow-laden streets. Power in areas of the city and surrounding districts was cut off for several hours Tuesday after ice formed on electricity lines.

People's Daily Online ---