Floods Devastate Western Ukraines Transcarpathian Region

In a letter to His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS dated November 16, 1998, Mr. John J. Righetti, President of the Pittsburgh PA-based Carpatho-Rusyn Society here, reported that heavy rains during the first week of November resulted in severe flooding in dozens of villages throughout the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine.

“The magnitude of the devastation is sobering,” writes Righetti, who learned of the devastation in an e-mail from the mayor of Mukachevo, one of the regions major population centers. “More than 117 villages—about 10 percent of all villages in Transcarpathia—have been affected. Those especially hard hit are the lowland villages along the Tysa River. Both Uzhorod and Mukachevo have been affected, but hardest hit have been the small villages, especially around Mukachevo - some of which no longer exist!”

Uzhorod, the regional capital, also serves as the see of the local Orthodox diocese, while Mukachevo is the site of two major monastic communities.

Reports of the flooding were confirmed with the American Red Cross, which has been offering assistance in the region through its office in Minsk, Belarus. Initial reports indicate that at least eight persons have been killed and thousands have been left homeless. It was also reported that the regions water supply system had been contaminated and that numerous persons were suffering as a result of using contaminated water. As reports of damages have increased, fear of tuberculosis, diphtheria and dysentery has spread.

“Some roads and bridges have been washed out, cutting off mountain villages and stranding people in the mountains with nothing” adds Righetti. “And the snows have begun to fall.”

Complicating the situation is the fact that little has been reported on the crisis in the west.

“While some media have carried it in small ways—the Weather Channel, CNN, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette—apparently it has been eclipsed by the admittedly high level of devastation in Central America,” says Righetti.

The initial estimate on flood damages was put at well over one-million dollars. According to Fedir Shandor, a journalist in Uzhorod, some humanitarian aid has been received from other regions of Ukraine and Hungary. As of November 9, no financial aid had been received from abroad.

Realizing that many communicants of the Orthodox Church in America trace their roots to the Trans-carpathian region, Righetti called for assistance, through the American Red Cross or other sources, in providing financial assistance for food, salt, matches, bread, warm clothing, children’s clothing and shoes, cables, water filter systems, and medicines. Those wishing to offer assistance may contact the Orthodox Church in America, Office of Humanitarian Aid, PO Box 675, Route 25A, Syosset, NY 11791, tel +1.516.922.0550, fax +1.516.922.0954, or the American Red Cross, 225 Boulevard of the Allies, P.O. Box 1769, Pittsburgh, PA 15230.

Photographs and other information on the floods may be found on the Carpatho-Rusyn Society’s website (www.carpatho-rusyn.org/flood.htm). Further information may be obtained by contacting Mr. Righetti at +1.724.284.4200 or Mr. Walt Orange, Carpatho-Rusyn Society Humanitarian Aid Chairman, at +1.412.751.4295.