06/28/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Crosses and icons to combat wildfires in the Siberian regions

Russian Orthodox Church's initiative to protect the country from the usual threat of summer fires. Alarm from Emergencies Ministry: compared to 2010, area affected by fires have tripled.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - To combat the summer fires that once again threaten to devastate the territory of Russia, the Ministry for Emergency Situations has decided to also try religious ‘weapons’.

According to reports by Ria Novosti agency, the ministry’s Krasnoyarsk department has decided to install in Siberia’s parishes 25 giant crosses, donated by the local Russian Orthodox Church. The crosses were sent on June 24 and placed in areas most affected by the flames: the districts of Boguchansky and Kezhemsky. Since the beginning of the dry season, Siberia is the region most devastated by the fires. Each cross carries a reproduction of the Russian icon of Neopalimaya Kupino, also known as Lady of the burning bush, said to protect against fires. The website NewsLab.ru also reports that four icons at the four cardinal points, and a fifth at the center, will be placedin every town.

As announced by the Ministry for Emergency Situations, the initiative was launched by the Church who contacted the authorities and an agreement was signed in 2010, when Russia was hit by the worst fires in its recent history: 62 dead in two months and thousands of displaced people across the country. "Any proposal of our citizens, even those that are not scientifically proven, will be welcome," said Yelena Smirnykh, a ministry spokesman in Moscow.

Compared to the same period last year, the area affected by fires this year has tripled. The Ministry of Emergency Situations has warned about the possibility of a hot summer like 2010, with wildfires across the country. "Since the beginning of the risk period for fires in Russia in 2011, 13,440 fires have developed naturally", it announced in Moscow. "In 2010 there were 12,900, showing an increase of 1.05 times, while the total area as of today is of 833,570 hectares. In 2010 it was  273,330 hectares. This marks an increase of 3.05 times". In addition to the region of Krasnoyarsk, the most serious fires were reported in Zabaikalsky, Irkutsk and in the republics of Komi and Buryatia. (NA)

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