08/10/2010, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Orthodox, Catholics, Muslims pray for rain as people died from smog in Moscow

by Nina Achmatova
The city's morgues are full, hospitals overcrowded, not enough gas-masks in pharmacies and the mortality rate has doubled. Demands for the resignation of the mayor of the capital. Campaigns of prayer and support for people affected by fires. Damages amount to 1% of GDP.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Russia are now united in prayer for victims of fires that have brought the country to its knees and in the hope that rain will soon arrive. "We have been praying for rain for weeks and for families who have lost their homes in the disaster this summer," Fr Kirll Gorbunov head of Communications for the Diocese of the Mother of God in Moscow tells AsiaNews.

In early August, the Archbishop of the Mother of God, Mgr. Paolo Pezzi, sent a letter to all parishes asking for prayers. "Every Sunday morning  -" Father Gorbunov – we have a special service for those affected by fires and in Vladimir, Caritas Germany is making plans as we speak to help people.". The apostolic nuncio, Mgr. Antonio Mennini, visited the parish of Nizhny Novogorod, one of the worst affected areas, and was shocked by the great level of destruction and suffering he saw among the people, "said Fr Gorbunov.

For weeks, even the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill has asked for prayers for the arrival of rain. Collections for all kinds of aid are taking place in Orthodox parishes: people bring clothes, food, dishes and even samovar to be sent to affected areas. The Patriarchate has also opened a bank account to send donations. In Epiphany Cathedral in Moscow, s a special liturgy is celebrated each morning for the victims of the fire, while some believers have written to the Patriarch inviting him to hold a period of fasting for an improvement to the situation.

With the same intentions Muslims are also praying, as reported by the press officer of the Council of muftis of Russia Gulnur Gaziyeva.

Meanwhile today, the cloud of smoke that has invaded Moscow for over a week was somewhat dissipated by the wind increasing visibility, while the temperature decreased slightly, remaining above 30 degrees. Fires continue in the capital and the smog alert is still at the highest levels.

The opposition has demanded the resignation of the Moscow mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, over his delay and inadequacy in addressing the situation. But the mayor, after refusing to decree a state of emergency, today also assured Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is in the capital, that the situation is "under control" and announced that the municipality has started to wet roads and flowerbeds with tons of water .

In the capital, the morgues are full, hospitals complete, pharmacies have run out of gas masks and the mortality rate has doubled. "We are shocked, we were left alone here in Moscow - says Natalia, a 33 year old office worker- the authorities are not taking care of us, they should at least distribute masks to breathe, they haven’t even thought about the children! Here it’s impossible to even leave the house. "

The authorities in the capital were forced to open 123 "anti-smog" centres. They are air-conditioned rooms designed in some hospitals and government buildings, said an official of the municipal administration, Vladimir Petrosyan. Most apartments, but also for public offices in Moscow have no air conditioning and on social networks like Facebook and Twitter posts are beginning to appear in which people ask the lucky few who own air conditioners to be allowed come to their homes.

And while the Kremlin is trying to disclose as little information as possible about the consequences of the extraordinary heat wave and forest fires in Russia, they have begun to face losses in economic terms which could reach 1% of 2010GDP, 15 billion dollars.  

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