A thick blanket of smog covered Russia's capital on Sunday, disrupting air traffic at the two international airports as wildfires continued to spread across the country.
"In the last twenty-four hours, 269 new wildfires have flared up in Russia. As many as 276 wildfires have been extinguished. Currently, 554 wildfires are raging on an area of over 190,000 hectares," Gen Vladimir Stepanov, the Chief of the Crisis Management Centre of the Emergency Situations Ministry on Sunday said.
In an interview to state-run Rossiya 24 channel Stepanov, however, said that in Sarov, the former Soviet nuclear weapons factory-turned into Federal Nuclear Centre, the wildfires have been completely extinguished.
Wildfires continued to rage across much of the central part of European Russia as the country experienced an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures of up to and above 40 degrees Celsius, RIA Novosti reported.
The death toll in the blazes rose to 52 on Friday.
On Saturday, Moscow saw its worst air pollution in 2010, with carbon monoxide levels being 6.5 times more than the maximum allowable concentration. The concentration of other toxic substances in the city air was nine times above the norm.
This morning, the situation has slightly improved but concentration of toxic substances still remains three times more than the permissible level, Moscow Ecological Monitoring Service said.
However, for the third day the dense smog has disrupted the air traffic at Moscow's Vnukovo and Domodedovo international airports in the south-west and south of the Russian capital, the only Sheremetyevo international airport in the north is functioning normally due to better visibility.
Up to 2,000 passengers were stranded at Moscow's Domodedovo international airport when major delays hit their flights.
A senior official of the civil aviation department Sergei Neradko said that about 50 flights have been cancelled and over two thousand passengers willing to fly out of Moscow are stranded.
"The pilots take their independent decision to make an instrumental landing in the poor visibility.
However, there is a certain minimum level of visibility beyond, which the ground control bans even the instrumental landing," Neradko explained.
Meanwhile, under scathing criticism Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is cutting short his vacation abroad and is returning home, ITAR-TASS reported.
The Russian health ministry said a total of 472 people across Russia sought medical aid in connection with the wildfires and 43 of them remain in hospitals.