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News Wrap: Smoggy Moscow’s Daily Death Toll Doubles

August 9, 2010 at 7:39 PM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: In Russia today, heavy smog from wildfires enveloped

Moscow again, as it has for six days in a row. In all, firefighters continued battling more than 550 blazes across the country. Most were in the West, but there were 40 near Moscow.

The resulting smog held dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and other

poisons. And officials said the city’s average death toll had doubled to 700 a day. Many in Moscow said simply breathing is now a challenge.

VIKTOR KANYGIN, resident of Moscow (through translator): To be honest,

it is hard. We are using old-time methods like putting gauze or linen on windows. But the best way is to leave Moscow, to a dacha or elsewhere, the farther the better.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Russian weather service said the triple-digit

heat that’s fueling the fires may be the worst in 1,000 years. The problem can be seen in this map by NASA. It compares readings from late July of this year to temperatures during the same time between 2000 and 2008. Areas with above-average temperatures appear in shades of red. Below-average temperatures are in blue.

The U.N. estimated today the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan has

affected more than 13 million people. As the flood tide moved south, some people were rescued, but many more waited for help.

We have a report from Juliet Bremner of Independent Television News.

JULIET BREMNER: A final step to safety, after three days marooned on

their farm. Floodwater doesn’t discriminate between the old and the young. The children of the Jatoi (ph) family are sick. They have fever, diarrhea and chest infections. They have left behind 65 more people, all now desperate to be rescued.

“Our animals are gone. Our crops are gone. Nothing is left. We

haven’t eaten for three days. We’re really hungry,” this old lady tells me.

With time running out, the Pakistani army and navy want everyone living

in villages around Sukkur to go. But some farmers are still reluctant.

Gesturing and begging, this woman urged the men to change their minds.

“For God’s sake, save the lives of your children,” she pleads.

Finally, they relent, and the women and children are helped aboard.

They can’t force them to leave. And, at first, many families chose to

stay, believing that the waters would drop. Instead, they’re still rising relentlessly. They haven’t eaten or drunk anything for days. And now they’re fearing for their lives.

A mass exodus is under way along the banks of the river Indus. Roads

are filled with refugees as the panic sets in. In the town of Gosbur (ph), hundreds haven’t made it to the road. Instead, they have crowded on to a small strip of land, the only place they could reach.

BARBAR ALI, Pakistan: We are in big trouble. Help us. We (INAUDIBLE)

are requesting your president and government kindly help us. Otherwise, if you are not going to help us, we all will die.

JULIET BREMNER: But no one is here. Aid agencies haven’t arrived yet.

The rescue boats don’t come this far downriver. Helicopters are busy in other parts of Pakistan. Here in the south, the growing tide of refugees can only pray that their need is recognized too.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Heavy rain also triggered flash floods and mudslides

in northwestern China over the weekend. At least 337 people were killed. The landslides hit late Saturday and early Sunday, after a river burst its banks. Entire mountain villages were engulfed in mud and rocks. Today, rescue crews searched more — for more than 1,100 people still feared missing.

BP has resumed drilling a relief well in the Gulf of Mexico. It could

be used to finish a permanent plug in the company’s blown oil well. Cement poured into the cap on the damaged well has already hardened. BP also reported today its overall costs in the spill have topped $6 billion.

The U.S. military may shut down a major command and cut the budget for

outside contractors by 10 percent. Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed those steps and others today. He wants to save $100 billion over five years. Gates targeted the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, with nearly 5,000 workers. Its mission is to improve cooperation among the services.

A dispute over so-called blood diamonds dominated the war crimes trial

of Charles Taylor again today. The former ruler of Liberia is accused of using diamonds to finance rebels in Sierra Leone. Actress Mia Farrow testified today at the trial in the Netherlands. She recalled talking to British model Naomi Campbell in 1997 after a charity dinner that Taylor also attended.

MIA FARROW, actress: As I recall, she was quite excited and said, in

effect: Oh, my God. In the middle of the night last night — or, last night, I was awakened by knocking at the door. And it was men sent by Charles Taylor. And he sent me — as I recall — a huge diamond.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In her own testimony last week, Campbell said she

received several — quote — “dirty-looking stones.” She denied knowing who sent them. Prosecutors are hoping to link Taylor directly to at least one blood diamond.

Honda recalled more than 380,000 vehicles today for a chronic ignition

problem. The key can sometimes be removed while the transmission is still in drive, and the car can roll away. The affected vehicles are Accords, Civics, and Elements from the 2003 and 2004 model years. It is the third time Honda has issued a recall for this same problem since 2003.

Stocks closed moderately higher on Wall Street. The Dow Jones

industrial average gained 45 points to close at 10698. The Nasdaq rose 17 points to close at 2305.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Gwen.