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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Arrests follow Syria dam burst
Flooded farmland following the dam collapse
The flood also caused substantial damage to crops
The Syrian authorities have arrested several people involved in building and managing a dam which burst last week causing at least 20 deaths and making thousands homeless.

Some reports put the number of those detained as high as 50.

They include a former minister of irrigation and the manager of the Syrian company that built the dam north of the city of Hama.
Map of Syria showing Hamah and Damascus

The collapse caused widespread flooding and massive damage.

Local people have complained that the dam, near the northern village of Zeyzoun, had been overfilled.

The six-year-old structure on the River Orontes is one of about 150 dams in Syria which are used mainly for irrigation.

The official newspaper Tishrin has since reported that two more dams in the same region have been found to be defective, and that a foreign company has been called in to deal with the leakage problems.

Offers of aid

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimates that 8,000 people were left homeless after the dam burst.

Many local people managed to flee to safety after noticing cracks in its walls.

Several countries have sent humanitarian aid to Syria, including Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait.

Syria has asked the United Nations for emergency aid, and the United States has offered financial assistance through the UN Development Programme.

Like most of the Middle East, Syria suffers from a chronic water shortage, but this year the winter lasted longer than usual, with heavy rains throughout.

See also:

05 Jun 02 | Middle East
05 Jun 02 | Middle East
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07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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