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Russia scrambles to contain record floods

20 August 2013, 15:07

Moscow - Russians in the Far East on Tuesday battled rising floodwaters as authorities evacuated more than 23 000 people from affected areas and scrambled to prevent the outbreak of infections.

Heavy rains pounding Khabarovsk, a Far Eastern city located near the Chinese border, since July have swelled the local Amur River to levels unseen since the 19th century, damaging property, infrastructure and crops and displacing tens of thousands.

There have been no reports of fatalities but more than 23 000 people have been evacuated so far, the office of the Kremlin's Far Eastern envoy Viktor Ishayev said in a statement.

Over the night, the Amur River, which serves as a natural border with China where it's known as Heilong Jiang, has risen by 16cm to 673cm and is expected to rise by another 40cm over the next two days.

"According to estimates, the water levels near Khabarovsk can reach 730-780cm on August 24-28," city officials in Khabarovsk said.


The military have been deployed to hurriedly erect flood defence bunds along the river, with authorities saying they have prepared 10 000 sand bags to use in case the waters breached the defences.

The latest natural disaster to hit Russia prompted questions about the local government's readiness for the floods, with Ishayev asking the General Prosecutor's office to look into how the authorities have been handling the emergency.

Authorities said many in the affected areas had been left without access to money after Russia's biggest bank Sberbank shut its branches and ATMs.

Of the more than 29 000 people who needed to be vaccinated, only 2 000 received necessary shots even though the local authorities had enough vaccines against hepatitis A, diphtheria and typhoid fever, Ishayev's office said.

The floods have affected the northern Yakutia, Primorsky Krai, Khabarovsk and Amur regions as well as the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

On Tuesday officials in the Magadan region also declared an emergency due to rising water levels.



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