Heavy rains and an early spring have led to massive flooding in southern Kazakhstan that have killed at least 30 people, washed away dozens of homes and threatened vital infrastructure, with the death toll expected to rise.
AFP - At least 30 people were killed and thousands evacuated from their homes in southern Kazakhstan Friday when two burst dams unleashed massive flooding, officials said.
Flood waters from rivers swollen by unusually heavy winter snowfalls and an early spring spilled over the walls of a dam in the southern Aksuisky district and washed away a second in the nearby Karatalsky district.
By Friday evening 30 corpses had been brought into the morgue of the region hit by the disaster, a source at the morgue told the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency, raising an earlier death toll of 25.
More than 2,500 people have been affected by the flooding, Almaty regional government spokesman Ilyas Biyakhmetov said, adding that at least 60 homes were destroyed.
Prime Minister Karim Masimov arrived in the region to survey the damage, Biyakhmetov said. He warned that the toll would likely rise and investigation into the causes of the disaster was continuing.
In the regional capital Taldykorgan, evacuees described the last-minute exodus from the village of Kyzyl-Agash as the flood waters began to spill over the dam.
"Our neighbours came and told us to drop everything and run, that the water was about to breach the dam. This was at eight o'clock in the evening," said Razbek Alakkan, wiping tears.
"So we abandoned our farm and left. All of our cattle died, but thank God we are alive," he added.
In the second incident in Karatalsky, officials said that an entire dam was washed away, forcing the evacuation of a village of 820 people, most of whom have taken shelter in a school.
The deluge had also brought down a bridge on a main highway connecting the capital Almaty with the northern city of Ust-Kamenogorsk near the border with Russia, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.
Around 300 rescue workers have been sent to the scene, it said.
Flooding is common in Kazakhstan, a mountainous nation which borders Russia and China.
In a separate incident, the remains of an air ambulance helicopter carrying two medics and a 17-year-old teenager suffering from appendicitis, along with two district officials, were found in the north of the country on Friday.
Contact was lost with the helicopter shortly after it took off from the village of Makanchi on Thursday.
"We have confirmed that the helicopter has been found and that all eight people are dead," a ministry spokeswoman told AFP on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak with the press.
The wealthiest of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, Kazakhstan has struggled to maintain its ageing infrastructure and has been hit by a series of disasters in recent years as a result.
Thirty-eight people were killed last year when a drugs treatment facility caught fire in Taldykorgan, and a warehouse fire in the capital Astana killed at least 16.
Date created : 2010-03-12