Russia evacuates 19,000 from flooded Far East
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
A frame grab from handout video taken on August 19, 2013 from a helicopter and provided by the Russian Emergencies Ministry's department in Amur Region shows an aerial view of a flooded area in the Russia's Far Eastern Amur region. AFP PhotoRussian authorities have evacuated more than 19,000 people from unprecedented floods that have devastated crops in the country's Far East, officials said Monday, as rescue workers warned of worse to come.
The Amur river rose to record levels in Khabarovsk, a city of 600,000 people, and rain continued to batter the region as authorities sent out bottled water and ran shelters for displaced residents.
More than half the crops in the Amur region have already been damaged by the floods, according to the agriculture ministry.
"There is very little time," said the governor of Amur region, Oleg Kozhemyako, quoted by news agencies.
"Five hundred kilometres of roads have been destroyed, bridges are destroyed, 38 villages have been cut off." The Amur river is expected to rise to nearly eight metres (26 feet) in Khabarovsk, authorities said, warning that key streets and energy infrastructure could flood.
Massive rains since the end of July have already caused both the Amur river and one of its tributaries to burst their banks.
Rescue workers even reported airlifting two bears -- kept in a cage at a tourist resort -- from a flood zone.
Russia's state weather service Rosgidromet forecast a further rise in water levels because of the continuing rains in the Khabarovsk region, which lies on the border with China.
Water levels will hit their peak later this week, the head of the weather service said on television.
There have been no reports of fatalities, but the emergency ministry said more than 19,000 people had been evacuated from the regions of Amur, Khabarovsk, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.
Several areas have been left without power and Kozhemyako said more than 43 percent of coal stockpiled for the winter had been lost in the flood.
Television footage showed trucks dumping sand in the streets to prevent flooding and troops dispatched to the area erecting sandbag barriers.
"Our dacha is basically swimming," one woman in a village near Khabarovsk told the NTV channel, referring to her countryside weekend home. "People's garages are submerged to the roof. All in all, everything is terrible." "How are we going to survive the winter?" another local said standing in her damaged house. "We don't even know when the water will subside." Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev demanded at a government meeting that payouts for damaged properties be made on time, calling the situation "very difficult".
Russia's Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, who travelled to the affected area, called on officials to prevent the outbreak of infections after groundwater became polluted.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Monday he would hold talks with Chinese counterpart Wang Yang over a common approach to the rising Amur river, which serves as the border between the two countries.
"We will discuss coordination of flood management," he wrote on Twitter.