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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 23:07 GMT
Floods cause havoc in southern Russia
Red Square in Moscow
Moscow temperatures have risen above zero after days well below
Heavy floods have forced thousands of people in southern Russia to flee their homes, as rivers broke their banks due to warmer weather after heavy snowfalls.

In the Krasnodar region, several thousand residents were evacuated as melting ice caused the Kuban River to rise more than half a metre above its critical level.

Hundreds of buildings were flooded in several villages along the river bank, a spokesman for Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said.

It is the first winter flooding in the area in half a century, said ministry spokesman Oleg Grekov.

The regional capital Yakutsk under flood waters
Siberia saw its worst flooding in years last May
The situation has been aggravated by a huge ice sheet clogging the Kuban estuary into the Sea of Azov, where ice-breakers and tugboats are working to clear the jams.

The army has also been using explosives to break the ice-dams after record cold temperatures in the previous weeks.

Most local residents were warned in advance and have been placed in hotels and boarding houses away from the danger area.

Cold snap

Central Russia is currently witnessing its coldest winter in years, while the Far Eastern region of the country suffered massive snowfalls earlier in the week.

However, the region has so far seen none of the catastrophic power breakdowns and shortages which last year left tens of thousands of residents without heating during one of the coldest winters in 50 years.

In the south, snow is still piled up to 150 centimetres, and is expected to melt as temperatures rise again in the coming days.

This has raised the prospect of further flooding.

See also:

03 Jan 02 | Europe
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02 Jan 02 | Europe
Snow paralyses central Europe
07 Nov 01 | Health
Cold homes 'killing elderly'
04 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Europe's climate forecast is hot
18 Mar 99 | Health
Cold 'killing 50,000' each winter
06 Sep 01 | Glasgow 2001
Big freeze for Britain?
18 Dec 01 | Europe
In pictures: Frozen Europe
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