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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK
Siberian city escapes floods
Woman feeds geese outside flooded house in Yakutsk
Many animals have been moved to safety
Dykes and dams protecting the Siberian city of Yakutsk have held off a wave of flood water heading downstream on the River Lena.

Officials had feared that a renewed surge of water caused by a sudden rise in temperature and rapid thaw would breach the city's hastily constructed defences and flood out its 200,000 inhabitants.

Location of flood-damaged cities along the river Lena.
But the water levels are now reported to be dropping and life is beginning to return to normal.

President Vladimir Putin is due to visit the devastated region on Friday.

The floods have so far claimed five lives and two people are missing.

Ice jams

"The [water] level is 7.63m (25ft) and the city is not in danger," an emergencies ministry spokesman said.

People began to come back on the streets and celebrate their lucky escape.

Thousands of people were evacuated and schools and businesses were closed.

The floods - the worst to hit Siberia for a century - were triggered by a spring thaw after a particularly harsh winter.

The waters rose to record levels on Tuesday, but subsided after bombers and helicopter gunships were used to blast away ice jams in the vast River Lena.

People in nearby villages drove their livestock onto higher ground, but some cattle have drowned.

Lensk destroyed

Floodwaters from the River Lena, Russia's fourth longest river, devastated the town of Lensk last week.

A bomb dropped from an emergency ministry helicopter explodes on the ice jam on the Lena river
Bombs were used to break up the ice
Thousands of people in Lensk are homeless and 1,800 homes destroyed. Emergency officials there have set up camps, and are handing out bread, water and hot meals.

Though spring flooding happens every year in Russia, the current levels are exceptional.

"What happened this year is basically what you would expect to see every 100 years," said Lev Kuchment of the Institute for Water Problems in Moscow.

Before the floods, scientists predicted the thaw of the permafrost resulting from climate change could destroy most of the city's buildings by 2030.

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See also:

22 May 01 | Europe
The Lena's trail of devastation
18 May 01 | Europe
Siberia flood rescue gathers pace
23 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
The cruelty of a Siberian winter
23 Nov 00 | Media reports
Russian energy crisis bites
21 May 01 | Europe
In pictures: Siberian floods
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