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16 Aug, 2013 18:51

Russia’s Far East prepares for flood peak

Russia’s Far East prepares for flood peak

With thousands already affected, flooding in Russia’s Far East is expected to reach its peak next week as emergency workers and local residents step up efforts to tackle the disaster.

With thousands already affected, flooding in Russia’s Far East is expected to reach its peak next week as emergency workers and local residents step up efforts to tackle the disaster.   

The Amur River has burst its banks due to heavy rains, submerging over one million square kilometers of land in one of the largest floods ever to be seen in the country’s Far East.

Over 28,500 have been affected by the flooding which has struck the Amur Region, the Jewish Autonomous Region, and the Khabarovsk Region, according to the Emergencies Ministry.

A state of emergency has been declared in the three most heavily affected areas: the Jewish Autonomous Region, the Republic of Yakutia, and the Amur Region.  

Emergency workers have already evacuated over 13,000 people from flooded areas. However, many residents are determined to stay in their homes, refusing to abandon their property and belongings.  

“Obviously, it’s hard to part with your home and cattle, but it’s the human life which should remain a priority,”
Oleg Kozhemyako, governor of the Amur Region, said.

"Force evacuation" will take place on Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island in the city of Khabarovsk if the “situation keeps deteriorating,” deputy head of the Khabarovsk Region, Andrey Volokzhanin, said, as quoted by RIA Novosti. Forty-five people permanently reside on the island.

There is concern that a heat power plant in Khabarovsk will be submerged.  There have also been reports of the flooding of cattle mortuaries which contain deceased livestock infected with anthrax and foot-and-mouth disease, with many believing that people’s health could be seriously at risk.

With the water level in the Amur River expected to reach an all-time record height of seven meters next week, authorities are quickly constructing sand dams. The local population is assisting emergency services and military troops in every way possible.

Image from mchs.gov.ru

Cutting edge anti-flood technologies are also being used. Thirty water-filled flood control dams have been delivered to the region along with humanitarian aid. Each dam is 25 meters long and can be easily erected on any type of surface, replacing over 1,000 sand bags.  

Russian Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov and Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova have arrived in the Far East to examine the situation.

The Russian Defense Ministry and Emergencies Ministry have increased military presence in the affected regions, with 4,500 thousand servicemen, 630 military vehicles, and 40 planes and helicopters tackling the situation.  

The army is currently setting up field camps capable to accommodate 4,000 additional soldiers.  

The Federal Medical and Biological Agency delivered by plane around 7,000 doses of the typhoid fever vaccine, 7,000 doses of the hepatitis B vaccine, and around 18,000 doses of a vaccine against dysentery.

So far, there have been no cases of intestinal infection in the affected regions, Health Minister Skvortsova stressed.   

“In the framework of planned activities, we vaccinate those people who are in the risk group,”
she explained.

Emergencies Minister Puchkov also suggested postponing the start of the school year in the Amur Region, from September 1 to September 10-15. Many of the local schools are currently being used as temporary accommodation centers for evacuated residents.

On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the allocation of 3.2 billion rubles to the affected regions, with local authorities estimating the damage at 3.2 billion rubles (around US$91 million).

But the struggle is far from over in the Far East. The flooding is forecasted to peak by the end of the week as more water is expected to come from neighboring China, due to a cyclone forming over the Pacific Ocean.

Image from mchs.gov.ru