The Heat Is Online

Kazakhstan Flooding Leaves at least 30 People Dead

Kazakhstan flooding death toll rises to 30

 The Associated Press, March. 13, 2010

ALMATY, Kazakhstan - The death toll from a massive flood that devastated a village in southern Kazakhstan has risen to 30, officials said Saturday.

A dam at a reservoir in the eastern Almaty region neighboring China ruptured Thursday evening, unleashing torrents almost 2 meters (6.5 feet) high and completely destroying Kyzyl-Agash, a village of 3,000 people.

Authorities said more than 600 emergency workers have reached Kyzyl-Agash to help clear the debris and that police have been posted at the entrance to the village to prevent looting. Emergency Services Minister Vladimir Bozhko is leading an operation to assess the scale of the damage.

An onsite commission is assisting in organizing funerals and providing replacement documents for the surviving flood victims.

By Friday evening, emergency workers had erected tents for 1,000 people near Kyzyl-Agash. Around 700 people have been evacuated to temporary accommodation in the regional capital, Taldykorgan, and a further 300 have been taken to the nearby village of Sagabien.

Prime Minister Karim Masimov traveled Friday evening to Taldykorgan to personally supervise rescue efforts.

"We need to have understanding for the situation of the victims — they have suddenly been left without homes, money and documents," Masimov said in a government statement.

He said many of the victims were ethnic Kazakhs who returned from neighboring countries to resettle in their historic homeland after Kazakhstan gained independence amid the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

In another part of the Almaty region, heavy rain and thawing snow Thursday evening eroded a levee in the village of Zhylbulak, flooding 140 homes and affecting 820 people. No casualties have been reported from the site.

Southern Kazakhstan was affected by unusually intense snowfalls this winter and fast-rising temperatures are causing major flooding and mudslides across the region.

Transportation has been severely hampered over recent days after major railroads and highway bridges across the country were washed away by the heavy rains.

Officials have made a concerted effort to respond rapidly to the flooding, marking a strong contrast with the lackluster reaction to a devastating fire in Taldykorgan in September that claimed 38 lives.

Hundreds of homes are destroyed annually by destructive floods in Kazakhstan during heavy rains and as snow begins to thaw in the early spring.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.