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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Landslide destroys geyser valley
Valley of the Geysers
The valley has only been open to tourists for 16 years

A huge landslide has destroyed a large part of Russia's Valley of the Geysers, considered one of the great natural wonders of the world, officials say.

The slide dumped millions of cubic metres of mud and rocks on the valley, a tourist attraction in the volcanic far eastern Kamchatka peninsula.

The valley, containing 90 geysers and numerous thermal springs, is said to be the only one of its kind in Eurasia.

Regional officials have been meeting to decide whether it can be restored.

Geysers are hot springs that erupt periodically, firing a jet of hot water or steam into the air.

Those which survived the landslide, which happened on Sunday, could be vulnerable to flooding, reports say.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's representative in the region, Kamil Iskhakov, said urgent action was needed to prevent the valley being flooded by waters from the river Geyzernaya, whose levels were rising after its bed was blocked by the slide.

Map of Kamchatka
"I didn't think things could be so tragic in the Valley of the Geysers," he told Interfax news agency after visiting the valley. "The scale of the destruction is simply terrible."

There were no casualties as a result of the slide - all 25 people in the valley at the time were evacuated.

The Valley of the Geysers, set in the wilderness of the Kronotsky nature reserve 6,700km (4,200 miles) from Moscow, was only discovered in 1941.

It was opened to tourists 50 years later.

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