Moscow morgues 'overflowing'10th August 2010
Mortuaries in the Russian capital are struggling to cope as death rates double amid a heatwave and smog caused by wildfires.
Many are worried that the actual death toll could be far higher than official figures. A senior doctor has said that the city has seen twice as many deaths in July as would normally be expected.
Staff at one Moscow crematorium are working shifts around the clock to cope with the additional number of deaths, while other crematoriums are warning that they cannot accept any new orders for cremation.
According to a timetable at a crematorium in Mitino, in the north west of the city, all four of the crematorium furnaces are in use, cremating human remains every 20 minutes.
An employee said the facility was accepting 80-90 cremations a day.
Dozens of families meanwhile crowded into the Khimkinskoye cemetery in the north of the city, arriving in buses, with several burial ceremonies taking place at the same time.
A worker at the cemetery said the burial site had seen a drastic increase in funerals over the past two months, two or three times above the average.
Record temperatures have scorched the city in recent weeks, and thick smoke from forest fires has choked Muscovites.
People are asking questions about the true mortality rate. Official data show at least 52 people have died in severe fires raging in parts of European Russia in the past few weeks.
But the government has issued no figures for Moscow, with some reports that officials are asking medics to obfuscate causes of death to avoid mass panic.
However, municipal health chief Andrei Seltsovsky said that deaths had almost doubled to 700 daily, mostly because of the heat.
The health ministry has tried to call his figures into question, and has so far declined to give details of its version of the death rate in Moscow since the heatwave began.
Mourners have reported that ambulance doctors and crew are editing out references to heat in their medical notes.
Staff at Moscow's No 62 Hospital said they were now storing bodies anywhere they could, because the morgue refrigerators were overflowing.
Funeral parlours were thronging with people near the hospital, trying to buy coffins, which were currently in short supply.
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