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Television marathon to help Far East flood victims unite Russian society

October 01, 2013, 18:46 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, October 1 (Itar-Tass) - Thousands of Russians transferred money to Far Eastern flood victims by sending SMS messages last Sunday, responding to Channel One TV's initiative to join nationwide relief efforts. On September 29, more than 500 million rubles were collected within the scope of the "All Together" television marathon. As of Tuesday, the sum of donations reached 650 million rubles. The campaign will run until October 5.

Heavy rain in the Far East continued for almost two months since the beginning of August. As a result of the flood that hit the region, 100,000 people lost their homes and were evacuated to temporary accommodation centres - dormitories, hotels, clubs and cinemas.

Channel One devoted last Sunday to meeting and talking with flood victims. Well-known artists and singers talked by telephone and via video link with residents of the inundated region. Victims told their stories of lost property and domestic animals and crops perished in the flood. Mobile communications operators said the sum of money donated to flood victims was increasing throughout the television marathon. The emotional broadcast moved many studio guests to tears.

Journalists of the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda found Russian citizens who had sent several hundred 40- to 50-ruble SMS messages to help flood victims, which brought each such contributor's charity total to 20,000 to 30,000 rubles /600 to 900 dollars/.

Departing from industry practice, all the mobile operators said they would not profit from the program, remitting all funds to the addressees. "I don't like high-flown words, but this is my civil position. Why not help if we have an opportunity?" Vyacheslav Chukhlebov from Surgut, an oil producing town, told Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Muscovite Alexei sent 467 SMS-messages: "Each can find himself in such a situation. We have a large country; we have to help each other." He refused to give his last name, noting that he was head of a well-known IT company and that he did not want anyone assuming that he was helping people for the sake of promoting his firm.

Against the background of the 40 billion rubles allocated by the government to eliminate the flood's aftermath,half a billion or even a billion rubles that could be raised by October 5 does not look that huge. Nevertheless, experts calculated that it can be used to build several hundred 55 square-metre apartments.

Flood relief money came not only from Russia, but also from Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and elsewhere. Many large cities set up centres to collect warm clothing, heaters, and medical equipment for sending to flood-hit districts. This part of the program did not generate a mass response, however, probably because federal television channels had not sufficiently covered it. The weather had also been rainy in the larger part of Russia and people tended to stay at home.

Highly-placed Russian officials donated large sums of money. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev remitted his monthly salary to the fund. You have to stand in queues to make remittances through Russian Post, so Channel One's call to help the needy without "standing up from one's sofa," as they say, was met with unheard-of enthusiasm.

Well-known rights champion, chairwoman of the all-Russian movement Civil Dignity Ella Pamfilova shared her impression about the marathon with Itar-Tass. "Although many stories from the Far East made people cry, yet good feelings around our society prevailed. The television marathon struck the best chords in people. Thousands of people not only sent paid SMS-messages, but also phoned their relatives, friends and acquaintances inviting them to joint the action. Thanks to this television project, I came to believe that regardless of nationality, religions and social status, Russian citizens are brought together by sympathy for the victims and the need for mutual assistance. It was not an ordinary television project. It helped our citizens to feel as one people. It's a great thing," Pamfilova said, adding that "a mass response to other people's troubles is a landmark event, an impulse to recovery of Russian society."