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Heavy rain causes disruption throughout Georgia

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, April 26
On April 25 agricultural technicians successfully installed a 300 metre-long pipe on the bed of the Cheremi reservoir which will siphon water away from Velistsikhe village in the event of more flooding.

Giorgi Sabashvili, the Deputy Governor of Kakheti Region, said that although more work had been begun the situation there is still alarming due to the heavy rain. “There is still danger of Velistsikhe village flooding but the Cheremi reservoir [whose flood defences were destroyed by the rain] is being repaired. The continuous rain is hindering this work but all the families have been safely evacuated from their homes,” Sabashvili noted.

“Flooding is still possible if there is more heavy rain. National Environment Agency specialists have been studying the situation and we will do our best to keep the village dwellers from danger,” Goga Khachidze, Minister of Environment Protection and Natural Resources, said during his visit to Velistsikhe with Zurab Adeishvili, Minister of Justice, and Vano Merabishvili, Minister of Internal Affairs, on April 23.

The natural disaster in Kakheti caused by the rain was discussed at a Government session on April 24, at which Nika Gilauri, Prime Minister of Georgia, summarised the effects of the flooding. “The extent of the damage caused by the natural disaster hasn’t been fully calculated yet, but all the affected families will be supported by the Ministry as soon as the figure becomes available,” Kakha Baindurashvili, Minister of Finance, said at the session.

Heavy snow has blocked the Kobi-Gudauri motorway, where rescue teams have been trying to find a taxi driver who disappeared during an avalanche. Giorgi Gegechkori, Head of Tbilisi Patrol Police, couldn’t confirm that the taxi driver and his passengers had gone missing but stressed that rescue teams and the patrol police have been trying to clear the road but have found nothing so far.

In Zemo Mleta local families have been made homeless by a simultaneous avalanche and landslip. These families still fear a further disaster. Tsezar Chocheli, Governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti, said that clearance has been hampered by the dangerous weather conditions but support teams have successfully addressed the disaster. The flooding River Mtkvari has also destroyed the 12-metre-long strategic motorway connecting the Mtskheta and Gori regions. Givi Maisuradze, Deputy Governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti, said that traffic movement will be restored as far as possible but it may take a month to restore the site. IDPs at the Tserovani Settlement, who have been terribly affected by the heavy rain, have been promised support by Koba Subeliani, Minister of Refugees and Resettlement. Water pumping has begun there but flooding may recur if it continues to rain.

A landslide has affected the Tbilisi outskirts too. Houses have been destroyed in Tskhvarichamia village, causing the death of an old man. Givi Amirkhanashvili, another Deputy Governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, said that the village was uninhabited apart from this man and his wife. In Dighomi water has covered the ground floors of houses and this is being cleared. The flooding Rivers Gldanula and Digmula have damaged houses in particular districts but forecasters from the National Environmental Agency remain optimistic about the weather.

“Landslides and floods are inevitable in Spring as the snow in the high mountains starts to melt. But the heavy rain has created an additional problem which is very unfamiliar in Eastern Georgia, where Spring is usually too dry. I can’t unfortunately give a thorough summary of the full situation as we still have to add up the amounts of moisture in each region but I can say that this level of deluge is anomalous in our country,” Svetlana Nioradze, Head of the Weather Forecast Bureau of the National Environment Agency, told The Messenger. “As for the forecast, I would say that it will be fine for a couple of days but heavy rain is still feasible from April 27-28, especially in the eastern part of our country. By the end of the month the weather will stabilise,” Nioradze added.

Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava appealed to the Governors of Tbilisi districts to take all measures to prevent possible damage from heavy rain. “Tbilisi is not the main centre of the natural disaster but residents of particular districts have been still affected by the rain. The relevant services from the Ministries have been mobilised. We don’t have a state of emergency [in Tbilisi] but in an ordinary working regime we should be able to control the situation ourselves.” Ugulava said at a special briefing, encouraging Tbilisi citizens to either appeal to the Emergency Service or call the Tbilisi City Hall hotline number, 72 22 22, if there is any problem.

According to Georgian media sources President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is paying an official visit to the US, has taken personal responsibility for the rescue work being undertaken in the danger zones.