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Aid unit helps Russia to fight fires

As forest and peat bog fires continue to ravage Russia, Switzerland has said it is supporting the country in its attempts to combat its worst heat wave in 130 years.

This content was published on August 10, 2010 - 16:29

Switzerland has offered several forms of assistance to the Russian ministry for emergency situations, the Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

In the first phase, the Humanitarian Aid Unit of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) provided about SFr500,000 ($472,000) for protective firefighting material. The equipment and protective clothing were immediately purchased in Switzerland and dispatched to Russia.

In addition, a four-person assessment and medical team have been working in Moscow since Tuesday morning. They are organising the delivery of the fire-fighting equipment and looking at ways of caring for burns victims in provincial hospitals with Russian doctors.

The experts are also strengthening Swiss representation in Moscow. At the moment the embassy is carrying out normal operations and does not envisage closing the embassy or evacuating staff from Moscow. The Swiss community and the embassy staff are receiving regular updates about the situation.

Moscow's top health official said on Monday that about 700 people were dying every day, twice as many as in normal weather.

The acrid smog that has engulfed Moscow for a week eased a bit on Tuesday, but the concentration of pollutants remained high.

Russian authorities worry that the fires may also release radioactive elements locked in vegetation since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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