MOSCOW, July 15 (JTA) The Russian Jewish Congress is distributing aid to families harmed by the most disastrous floods in more than a century in Southern Russia. Some 50 families in the Stavropol region, Jews and non-Jews alike, are receiving aid from the RJC after the recent floods, which left at least 105 people dead and over 200,000 homeless. The water destroyed more that 12,000 houses and damaged more than 47,000 in nine regions of Southern Russian and Northern Caucasus, turning what used to be fertile land into muddy swamps full of destroyed roads, railways and electric systems. “This flooding is a terrible calamity for the entire region,” said Adolph Shayevich, one of Russia’s two chief rabbis, who visited the affected areas last week. “I’ve seen it, it’s hard to tell what one feels just at seeing it,” he said of his visit to Barsukovskaya, a town of 6,000 people that was almost entirely destroyed by the flood. Local and federal authorities swiftly responded to the calamity by sending linen, blankets, boots, and toiletries to the affected areas. Government financial aid also followed, although it was far from enough to compensate for lost property. Insurance is still a novelty in Russia, especially in rural areas, and the disaster drove most families in the region to desperation. Only one-fifth of the RJC aid was distributed to Jewish victims; the support provided to non-Jews “has significantly raised the profile and the authority of the Jewish community” with local officials and non-Jews, said Shertil Shaumov, the rabbi in Pyatigorsk, a city in Stavropol. The RJC would not specify the size of its flood relief fund, but the amounts provided to individual victims were reported to be several times more than the amounts passed out to these individuals so far through local and federal government funds.
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