ALMATY: Thousands of people were evacuated and some were killed in Kazakhstan on Friday after severe floods destroyed two dams in the south of the Central Asian state, the emergencies ministry said.
A dam burst Thursday in the Aksuisky district north of the country’s business and cultural capital Almaty, flooding a village of 3,000 people, who were evacuated to a nearby town, the ministry said in a statement.
“According to our official data, 20 people are considered missing as a result of the floods in the Almaty region, but this is only preliminary data,” ministry spokesman Eldar Rayimbakov told AFP.
“At this point, it is too early to say with certainty that they are dead,”he added.
But Russian news agency Interfax-Kazakhstan said that at least 20 people had been killed and 60 homes washed away in the raging flood waters, citing a press release from a regional emergency services department.
Their bodies washed up in the aftermath of the flood and were discovered by emergency services personnel, the agency said.
Local officials could not immediately be reached by telephone to confirm the report.
In a separate incident Thursday, a dam was washed away in the nearby Karatalsky district after heavy snowfall melted, forcing the evacuation of a village of 820 people, most of whom have taken shelter in a school.
The flooding has also washed away a bridge on a main highway connecting Almaty with the northern city of Ust-Kamenogorsk near the border with Russia, the emergency ministry said.
Around 300 rescue workers have been sent to the scene, the ministry said.
The country’s prime minister Karim Masimov was also due, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Flooding is common in Kazakhstan, a vast country of mountains and steppe bordering Russia and China, as the run-off from its soaring southern peaks taxes its ageing dam system.
Kazakhstan, the wealthiest of the former Soviet states of Central Asia, has struggled to maintain its aging infrastructure, and has been hit by a series of disasters in recent years as a result.
Thirty-eight people were killed last year when a drugs treatment facility caught fire in the city of Taldykorgan, and a warehouse fire in the capital Astana killed at least 16.