Muscovites welcomed on Thursday morning skies all but free of the thick, toxic smog that had gripped the city for most of the previous 24 hours.
While the Russian capital has suffered from smog - smoke from nearby raging peat bog and forest fires mixed with exhaust fumes and other pollutants - for over a week, skies had usually cleared by noon, allowing a modicum of respite.
But Wednesday’s invasion of acrid smog refused to shift, shrouding the city’s streets and landmarks in a choking haze that led officials to urge residents to wear masks when outdoors.
Taking refuge in their apartments - the vast majority of which have no air-conditioning - was no easy option for Muscovites however - temperatures here have reached 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) this week.
The heat wave, which looks set to last for at least another week, and the accompanying smog has given rise to talk of an apocalyptic nature, with a leading psychiatrist claiming some 10% of Russians believe the latest events indicate doomsday is not far off.
“They say it is divine retribution, the start of the end of the world, and their talk sparks off lots of rumors,” Zurab Keklidze of the Serbsky National Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry said.
The abnormal heat and resulting wildfires - which have so far killed 50 people and left some 2,000 homeless across the central part of European Russia - have also seen speculation that the country may have come under attack by new sophisticated climate weapons.
Andrei Areshev, deputy head of the Strategic Culture Foundation, claimed in a recent article that “At the moment, climate weapons may be used to provoke droughts, erase crops, and induce various anomalous phenomena in certain countries."
His suggestion was accepted without question by many Russians.
“Of course, it’s the Americans who have been doing this. Everyone knows,” Muscovite pensioner Irina Murzina said. “They brought the heat.”
But Thursday saw, in Moscow at least, much better moods.
‘Just look at those skies!” a taxi driver, who gave his name only as Sergei, exclaimed at around 8:00 a.m. (04:00 GMT). “Clear as the deep blue sea,” he went on, exaggerating, it must be said, a touch.
“It’s funny,” he mused. “I usually hate driving through our city - through the exhaust fumes and all - but after yesterday’s nightmare Moscow feels like a resort - the air seems so fresh,” he added, sticking his head out of the window of his vehicle and taking a deep breath for good measure.
Fires however continue to burn in the countryside around Moscow and a repeat of Wednesday’s “nightmare” can not be ruled out.
MOSCOW, August 5 (RIA Novosti)