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Storm wreaks havoc in West Georgia

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, January 26
West Georgia has been battered by gale force winds in the last few days. About 80,000 people have been left without electricity in Imereti and Samegrelo. On January 25 Koba Subeliani, Minister of Refugees and Resettlement, visited the region to acquaint himself with the situation.

Senaki, Martvili, Kombinati, Kakhati and Paipuri in the Zugdidi region are experiencing particular difficulties as a result of the high winds, as is Poti. According to preliminary information 17 compact settlements of IDPs have been destroyed there. A special commission is assessing the total damage the region has suffered. This is presently said to total more than GEL 200,000 but this figure may increase as the assessment progresses.

Tengiz Manava, Deputy Administrator of the Zugdidi Municipality, says the damage is very serious. “The strong winds have damaged schools and houses, which means studying has been suspended at particular schools as the wind has taken the roofs off the buildings. Several IDP families have also been left in the open air without any shelter. The exact amount of damage will be calculated in a few days and we will do our best to help those affected,” he stated.

In addition, the bodies of Irakli Tsaava, 16, and Mamuka Garuchava, 32, two young fishermen who were lost in the Paliastomi Lake, have not yet been found. A third fisherman reported seeing their boat turn over in the wind and toss them into the lake. The Coastguard Office, Police and the local population have been involved in the search but as yet with no result.

15 high transmission masts have also been damaged by the strong winds in West Georgia. 200,000 people are without electricity there. The wind has even reached Lanchkhuti Municipality and its surroundings, where 40-50% of houses and schools have had their roofs taken off by the wind. According to Gia Goguadze, the Lanchkhuti Governor, the strong wind has affected the gas pipeline in the region too. The city is temporarily without gas supply.

The electricity system has failed in Imereti. Avtandil Dvalishvili, Head of the Public Relations Department of Energo-Pro, has officially stated that 30% of the problems caused by the winds have been already settled and 90% of the population will be supplied with electricity after the restoration of the transmission masts.

The wind has even caused a fire. Eight hectares of tea plantation and a forest in the Khoni District were set ablaze by the force of the blast. There was a danger of the fire reaching the local settlement along with Khoni Prison, but fortunately it was extinguished by the Fire Brigade and Army in time. Chabuka Grdzelishvili, Head of the local Fire Service, commented that it was very difficult to extinguish the fire but the brigade still managed to guarantee the safety of local inhabitants.

“Thanks to God, and thanks to the people involved, we have overcome all the difficulties. It took the Fire Brigade and the Army the whole night to deal with the disaster. What all of them did is the equal of heroism,” Lasha Kiladze, the Vice-Governor of Imereti, added.