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Boris Mamlin, journalist in Novosibirsk
"Siberia is not prepared"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Thousands flee Siberia floods
Flooding in Siberia
Thirty thousand people have been affected by floods
By Caroline Wyatt in Moscow

Severe spring flooding has forced several thousand people from their homes in the Irkutsk region of Siberia and in Yakutsk in Russia's far east.

The level of the Lena river is two metres higher than normal due to melting snows and heavy rain.

However, the authorities have managed to blow up a large blockage of ice, which had prevented the river from flowing freely.

They used several tonnes of explosive to break up the 80km-long (50 mile) blockage.

President Putin announced the operation's success on television and discussed measures to bring relief to the region.

More than 4,000 buildings - home to around 30,000 people - have been affected.

More floods to come

The authorities are evacuating as many people as possible, although some do not want to leave their homes, despite the flooding.

map of Russia
One woman in Irkutsk drowned when she went to inspect the flooded cellar of her home.

In other areas, such as Korensk, only the roofs of the houses are still showing above the waters, and the airport has been shut.

There were warnings earlier this year that Siberia and the far east could be affected by floods following one of the harshest winters on record, when temperatures plunged to -50 degrees centigrade.

The Russian authorities say the situation will remain tense for the next few days.

More rain is forecast and a fresh flood wave is expected from another tributary of the river Lena.

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