Moscow drenched with record rainfall as Europe sweats

MOSCOW - Western Europeans panting through a deadly heat wave have rare cause to wish for the weather at the other end of the continent in Moscow, where rainfall set a 30-year record and the only waves threatening the city were the watery kind.

Muscovites plodded through puddles Thursday after a second night of heavy rain, which followed record rainfall Wednesday that flooded streets and cellars and stalled traffic, delaying trains and trolley buses and making thousands late for work.

An average of 50 millimeters (1.97 inches) of precipitation fell across the city in less than 12 hours Wednesday, two-thirds of the norm for the entire month of August and more rain than the city has seen in a single day since Aug. 9, 1973, said Valery Lukyanov, deputy head of the Moscow meteorological agency.

Cautious drivers crept through pools Wednesday, while the less patient sent sheets of water spraying from beneath their tires as they sped through the city.

Hundreds of commuters waited for buses or tried to flag down cabs as a metro line in western Moscow was shut down during the morning rush hour because of flooded tracks.

East of the Kremlin, the Yauza River flooded its banks in one spot, drenching a major thoroughfare.

The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said at least 20 streets were flooded and several electric-powered trolley bus routes were paralyzed because of safety concerns.

"Of all forms of city transport, it seems only riverboats remained in action," the daily Izvestia reported.

The short Russian summer is often spoiled by cold rains in late August, but after a burst of heat last month, wet and unseasonably cool weather has settled over the capital.

Moscow has had 88 millimeters (3.46 inches) of precipitation already this month, exceeding the norm for August by 11 millimeters (0.43 inches), Lukyanov said.

Rainy weather has had a more serious effect in southwestern Russia's Volgograd region, where emergency officials said storms earlier this week ripped off roofs or broke windows of about 3,000 homes and other buildings, causing an estimated 144 million rubles (US$4.8 million) in damage, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.