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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK
Saudi rescue for Syria flood village
Syrian dam disaster scene
A deluge of water gushed through cracks in the dam
A Saudi billionaire, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, has pledged to rebuild a village in northern Syria which was inundated when a dam burst earlier this month.

At least 20 people were killed when the Zeyzoun dam collapsed, burying about 60 square kilometres of farmland in mud and silt.

Map of Syria showing Hamah and Damascus
Al-Waleed's investment firm, Kingdom Holding Company, said the prince pledged to "reconstruct the entire village of Zeyzoun and all its infrastructure of water, electricity, telephone and sewage systems".

Al-Waleed held talks in Damascus on Monday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who accepted his "generous offer," the official Syrian news agency Sana reported.

The Syrian Government has decided to rename Zeyzoun, which lies north of the city of Hama, calling it "Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Village" in honour of the Saudi investment tycoon, who is also building a $100m hotel in Damascus.

Al-Waleed pledged to rebuild schools, mosques, a clinic and a hospital in the village.

The prince, a nephew of King Fahd, has investments worth more than $7.3bn in the technology sector and also has a 50% stake in the New York Plaza Hotel.

Aid offers

Japan's embassy in Damascus has also pledged more than $60,000 to aid the Syrian relief efforts.

Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal
Prince Al-Waleed is a nephew of King Fahd
President Assad announced on Sunday that families hit by the disaster would get an extra $5,000, on top of the $1,000 offered soon after the dam collapsed on 4 June.

Iraq has promised to donate 10m euros ($9.4m) worth of oil to Syria to help reconstruction efforts, although that would be a violation of UN sanctions.

The damburst destroyed hundreds of homes and wiped out crops in the northern al-Ghab area in Syria.

The dam, on the Orontes river, is one of about 150 in Syria, mainly used for irrigation.

Built in 1996, the dam collects rain water and receives water from the Orontes River.

Several people involved in building and managing the dam have been arrested. They include a former minister of irrigation and the manager of the Syrian company that built it.

See also:

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