Thousands left without heat in Moscow-region town

Nearly 12,000 people were left without heat in a town outside of Moscow Monday after a major hot water pipe ruptured, a federal emergency official said. The incident in Podolsk, just south of the Russian capital, was the latest disruption to heating supplies in Russia as much of the country suffers through the seventh day of brutal arctic temperatures.

Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry, said the pipeline failed around 9:45 a.m. (0645GMT), shutting down heat and hot water for more than two dozen buildings, including a kindergarten. Most Russian towns and cities are heated through a centralized municipal heating system.

Also Monday, Russian news agencies reported that seven people died of exposure over the weekend in Moscow, pushing the nationwide death toll from the cold snap to nearly 50.

This winter is the coldest in Moscow since 1978-1979, when temperatures reached minus 38 C (minus 36.4 F) and the cold has severely strained the Russia's crumbling infrastructure. Electricity use has surged to record levels as towns and cities struggle to keep indoor temperatures up and Russians turn to supplemental heating sources including electric radiators to keep warm.

The cold wave that swept into the Russian capital last Monday has also pushed into eastern Europe, killing people in Estonia, Poland, Romania, Moldova and elsewhere. At least three people died in northeastern Romania after temperatures plunged as low as minus 25 Celsius (minus 13 F), Romanian news reports said Monday, reports the AP. N.U.