08/21/2010, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Catholics commitment to victims of Russian fires

The local Caritas provides clean water, food, mobile phones. In collaboration with Caritas Germany, it will address the long term needs of winter. Meanwhile Putin dismiss the head of the forestry service.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church in Russia is at the forefront of helping victims of the summer fires that have brought the country to its knees. On 13 August, representatives of the Mother of God in Moscow visited Melenkovsky district in Vladimir region (350 km east of Moscow), one of the areas hardest hit by the disaster. The greatest damage reported is in the village of Yuzhny - 38 out of 68 homes destroyed - and that of Kamenka – where 29 out of 38 homes went up in smoke. The delegation met with the local population, as well as leaders and local government official.

In this area alone 142 people have been left homeless (69 households), most of whom are disabled, elderly people and children. The government has promised to provide new homes by mid-October. For now most people have found shelter with relatives, while 35 people are housed in the local school building. With them are also 25 other people who have been made homeless and come from nearby villages. During the visit it was decided that Caritas will provide drinking water and dishwashers to be installed in the school. Collections are also underway to provide food, basic necessities even mobile phones to distribute to residents who have decided to remain in their homes.

In the long term, Caritas from the Archdiocese of the Mother of God, in collaboration with Caritas Germany, will provide winter clothing, food and health products to the most disadvantaged among the victims who are waiting for new homes.

Aid distribution will be coordinated by Fr. Sergey Zuev, pastor of the Catholic church of Our Mother of the Rosary in Vladimir. The parishioners are already engaged in a town collection for families affected by fires. Fr. Zuev says he appreciate the cooperation of local authorities in helping the needy. His next goal, he explains, is to organize similar aid for the victims of the Ivanovo region.

By now the majority of emergency situations have been addressed. Vladimir Putin has also forced the Forestry chief, Alexei Savinov, to resign for not having adequately dealt with the fires. His replacement is Viktor Maslyakov. But many critics argue that responsibility for the disaster rests with Putin, who in 2006 approved a law depriving the Forest Rangers of important powers to deal with emergencies. (NA)

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