Sunday, January 22, 2006

Only in Russia!

Zoo animals fed vodka as temperatures plunge past -30C in Russia
19.01.06 1.00pmBy Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW - Animals at zoos across Russia were being given shots, or in some cases buckets, of vodka, to keep them warm yesterday as temperatures in the European part of the country plunged towards an exceptional minus 40 degrees Celsius.

In the ancient town of Yaroslavl a travelling circus there said it had been forced to start giving its trio of Indian elephants vodka mixed with water in buckets as the mercury dipped. In Lipetsk, where meteorologists recorded temperatures of minus 32, the zoo's contingent of macaques was being fortified with cheap French table wine three times a day and in other zoos camels, wild boars and reindeer were being given regular shots of vodka to stave off the chill.

People who clutched their mobile phones to their ears for too long had to be taken to hospital with frostbite, homeless people froze to death where they slumped and some of Moscow's famously bright lights had to be temporarily turned off as the city consumed record amounts of electricity and moved to selective rationing. With the temperature hovering around minus 30 Celsius yesterday Moscow, a city of 12 million, seemed eerily quiet with locals saying they had not experienced such extreme cold for half a century. The coldest temperature recorded in Moscow, of minus 42, was recorded in 1940 and experts said that the current Arctic conditions could last until the end of the month with the temperature steadily dropping towards minus 40 as the week progresses.

Moscow's infamous traffic jams vanished into the icy air as many people left their cars at home and shops, bars and restaurants saw custom plunge. With nostril hair freezing on impact with the outside air and ice quickly forming on eye lashes, Moscow's pavements were also far less crowded than usual and the foyers of metro stations were crowded with the dispossessed who were- exceptionally- allowed to sleep in the subway system overnight.

The fierce cold, which is extreme even by Russian standards, especially in European Russia, had serious human consequences. Russian media said that the number of people to die from hypothermia in Moscow since October had shot up to 109 with at least 24 people dying of exposure in the last 24 hours.

In the Volga region a minibus on its way to Moscow plunged through the ice of a frozen river it was crossing killing six while cracks opened up on concrete road bridges and entire villages in remote regions were left without heat or light in a few extreme cases.

Russia's efforts to weather the cold snap were felt further west with Hungary and Italy reporting that they had started to receive less Russian gas and were being forced to dip into their own reserves. Gazprom, Russia's energy monopoly, admitted it was diverting more gas to its domestic customers because of the freezing temperatures. It said that Moscow alone was receiving 40 per cent more gas than usual. However it insisted that it was strictly fulfilling the terms of its contracts with European gas customers.



Post a Comment

<< Home