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Minister: Up to 100,000 could be evacuated in Russia floods

Aug. 19, 2013 at 8:47 AM   |   Comments

BLAGOVESHCHENSK, Russia, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Up to 100,000 people may be evacuated from Russia's Far East as flood waters reach historic highs in the region, Far East Minister Viktor Ishayev said Monday.

A total of 32,500 people living in 5,000 homes have been affected by the flooding, TV-Novosti reported. More than 17,000 people have been evacuated from the Amur, Khabarovsk and Jewish Autonomous Regions.

The water level in the Amur River near Khabarovsk, where the flooding is the worst, rose more than 6 inches in one day and now stands at more than 21 feet. Officials said they fear the river may reach the 23-foot mark by Saturday.

There have been no deaths in the emergency so far and one local observed there doesn't seem to be much panic by those affected by the flooding.

"People are in combative mood. Maybe the locals are more used to the harsh weather conditions here. That's why they are calm, and are treating the situation with understanding. But of course all is quite horrible here," the observer, whose name was not reported, said.

"The damage is extensive, but the most significant achievement is there have been no casualties ... we cannot relax, there is still a lot of work to be done," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Some 93 shelters have been set up in the region, accommodating more than 1,257 people, Voice of Russia reported.

The floods forced rescuers to airlift two brown bears from a flooded tourism resort near Blagoveshchensk in the Amur Region, RIA Novosti reported.

"We will hire a man who will take care of the bears and feed them. The bears will stay here until the water level falls," the Zelyonaya resort director Grigory Nikishin said.

The bears spent nearly two weeks in flooded cages before their evacuation, RIA Novosti said.

More floodwater is expected from China as the cyclone season revs up. Specialists forecast a flood wave from the Amur and Tunguska rivers will sweep through the region in the next month.

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