Google+ Followers

Monday, June 15, 2015

Georgia: devastating flood left casualties and serious damages in Tbilisi

Flood in Tbilisi
(Image: Wikipedia)
Georgian capital Tbilisi was hit by the heavy rains on Sunday night, 14 June, causing a terrible flood in several districts of the city and leaving serious damages.

The flood occurred in the valley of the river Vere which is the right tributary of the Mtkvari (Kura) River streaming through the center of Tbilisi. The Vere river runs through Tbilisi Saburtalo and Vake neighborhoods and is characterized by the periodic flash floods. The biggest floods occurred previously in 1960, 1963, 1972 and 1995, with the 1972 flood causing many fatalities and flooding Tbilisi Zoo.

Heavy rains that fell on Tbilisi during several hours on the Sunday night (13-14 June) caused a major flash flood of the Vere River, and the small and calm river turned into a wild and raging stream, causing destruction and chaos on its way. Tbilisi’s drainage systems didn’t hold the water, and it caused a landslide on the banks of the river.

Hundreds of houses appeared to be flooded, the building of Georgian Ministry of Justice was also reported to be seriously affected by the waters. Nearly 22,000 people were left without electricity, while more than 40 families were left homeless. At least 19 people were reported to be dead, among them three workers of Tbilisi Zoo that was seriously affected by the current flood. One of the workers of Tbilisi Zoo, 56 year old Guliko Chitadze, who recently underwent surgery after her arm was injured due to the tiger’s attack, was among the zoo workers who were found dead.

Dozens of people were injured, though most of them have light and middle injuries, many of them have already returned home from the hospitals.

At least 24 people were reported to be missing since the night of 13-14 June. The whereabouts of ten of them remain unknown on 15 June.

Bear that escaped the flooded Tbilisi Zoo
(Image: BBC)
The flood caused terrible damages to the renowned Tbilisi Zoo, which was totally flooded and destroyed. The water level in some parts of the zoo reaches six-seven meters, according to the reports of the journalists based there. More than a half of the zoo inhabitants were reported to be dead as a result of flood, while another half has managed to escape to the higher levels of the city.

The situation in Tbilisi is tense as dozens of animals, among them lions, tigers, bears, wolves and hyenas were set loose and run to the streets of the city.

Georgian Armed Forces, police and security forces and emergency services personnel were deployed to the affected area in order to participate in the rescue operation. Those people who appeared to be trapped due to the flood were rescued with the helicopters. Many local people also participate in the rescue operation as volunteers.

As for the escaped animals, security forces and emergency services started special operation as well in order to locate these animals. Some of them were captured and brought back to the zoo, some of them were unfortunately killed, what sparked angry reactions of many Georgian officials and representatives of the animals’ rights organizations, as the security forces have possibly exceeded their responsibilities and misused their position.

In addition to that the flood affected seriously the animals’ shelter on the outskirts of Tbilisi as well that was home to hundreds of homeless animals. The shelter was reported to be totally destroyed, with most of the animals drowned. The shelter’s workers managed to escape the flood with only several dogs.

Heavy flood in Tbilisi
(Image: RT)
The total damage caused by the recent flood in Tbilisi was estimated as GEL 40 million.

15 June was declared a national day of mourning in Georgia.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili declared he would allocate funds from the President’s Discretionary Funds to help the affected families.

UN refugee agency, UNCHR, has mobilized its Tbilisi forces to organize an emergency response. The governments of Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and USA have also sent their help and allocated funds to assist the affected families and to help to restore the city. EU emergency office has also declared its readiness to deploy its help and assistance.

Czech Republic and Russian Federation have also offered their help to the Tbilisi Zoo.