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Over 200 Poisoned In Russia After Consuming 'Holy Water'

PTI 26 January 2010, 9:14
PTI

Over 200 people have been poisoned in the Siberia city of Irkutsk after consuming 'holy water' from wells purified during the Orthodox Christian Epiphany last week, according to reports.

Even as the Church officials have denied the poisoning cases are due to sanctified water, the number of victims has hit 228 as of Monday, of which 114 of them have been hospitalised, the consumer health and sanitary watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said. And investigations have been launched into the case of mass poisoning.

The sanitary watchdog said the tests showed that water from the city's Archangel Michael Church was in accordance with the norms, but samples taken from two nearby wells and a swampy lake showed the concentration of chloride and nitrates was twice the normal level.

"Water from a pond and underground wells does not correspond to hygienic norms," the sanitary watchdog was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

It said 18 people who drank water taken from the wells near the church, which is located in an industrial zone between two major thoroughfares, have been diagnosed with rotavirus-caused gastroenteritis.

On January 19 the Orthodox Church celebrates the baptism of Christ, or Epiphany, when water is believed to become holy and have healing properties.

Many believe any water, even from the taps from the kitchen sink, poured or bottled by Christians on Epiphany becomes holy.

The water sanctified in churches is often stored by believers for long periods.

Many faithful take a holy dip in the cross shaped hole cut in the ice of frozen rivers and ponds in the freezing cold, when mercury dips double digits below zero, usual for this time of the year.

The secretary of the Irkutsk diocese, Father Maximilian, said an ice hole was made in the lake for bathing, in line with an old Russian tradition.

He said water from the lake could have caused poisoning. PTI