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Harsh weather wreaks havoc across Georgia

By Shorena Labadze
Friday, February 22
Heavy snowfall has killed one man and paralyzed western Georgia, closing roads and damaging buildings across the country.

Four employees of the Georgian Gas and Oil Corporation doing maintenance work on a pipeline were lost in the snow February 20. A rescue team found them yesterday, but one man had died from exposure.

“One of our snowmachines went bad, and we lost control of the other. We had to come back on foot,” one of the survivors said. “After four kilometers, it got dark. We dug a hole and slept there.”

Snow reportedly piled up as high as two meters in the southwestern region of Samtskhe-Javakheti. The railway near the western town of Zugdidi shut down for hours, and flights out of seaside Batumi were postponed.

The blizzard also damaged homes and downed electricity lines in the usually balmy port town of Poti, while heavy winds blew off roofs in eastern Kakheti province.

The newly-appointed Kakheti governor, Levan Bezhashvili, toured the wreckage yesterday, estimating damage at GEL 10 000.

President Mikheil Saakashvili, stopping to speak to reporters on his way to Moscow yesterday, pledged state assistance for everyone harmed by the severe weather.

“80 percent of problems have already been resolved,” he assured the crowd. “The situation is not easy, but we will manage.”

Saakashvili said the government is collaborating with Armenia to help people on roads along the Armenian-Georgian border.

“[Armenia] helped us evacuate people from Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki districts. We are also searching for ways to restore the electricity supply as quickly as possible,” he said.