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Drunk Russians take fatal plunge to dodge heat

* Dozens drown daily as drunk Russians go splashing

* Children also die amid lack of parental attention

* Army suspends training due to high risk of fires

MOSCOW, July 14 (Reuters) - Dozens of Russians, unduly fond of their national tipple, are drowning daily as they stream to water to escape the record-setting scorching heat, a senior emergencies ministry official said on Wednesday.

Vodka-drinking groups -- some with small children -- can be seen at lakes and ponds in and around the Russian capital where the current three-week heatwave may set a new all-time record of 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) this weekend.

"Russia's Emergencies Ministry is very worried by the current situation. In the last day alone, 49 people drowned (in Russia), including two children, Vadim Seryogin, a department head at the ministry, told a news conference.

More than 1,200 people drowned across Russia in June this year, Seryogin said, adding that 233 people had drowned in the period between July 5 and July 12.

"The majority of those drowned were drunk," he said. "The children died because adults simply did not look after them."

He said the most "outrageous" case demonstrating such incompetence was last week's accident on the Sea of Azov in southern Russia when six children drowned because the summer camp employees who were minding them were intoxicated.

Reacting to a strong public outcry after the tragedy, President Dmitry Medvedev said it "smacks of a crime" and demanded punishment for the camp employees and urged to immediately improve safety procedures at summer camps.

Seryogin said 95 percent of those who drowned had died at beaches where bathing is officially banned.

Weather forecasters say the heatwave -- Russia's worst in decades -- will last for another week and warn that one should not expect a sharp fall in temperatures afterwards.

Medvedev said on Tuesday the heat was a major problem for Russian agriculture, echoing concerns from the nation's grain lobby, which said the country is undergoing the worst drought in 130 years of weather observations.

The government imposed a state of emergency in 16 Russian regions where the heat shrivelled grains in an area the size of Portugal.

The army as well appears to be losing a battle with the severe drought.

Itar-TASS news agency quoted a spokesman for Russian land forces as saying that troops had suspended night exercises due to a high risk of fires that may be sparked by tracer bullets, incendiary projectiles and flares. (Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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