Friday, July 20, 2012

Heavy rains, storms wreak havoc in Kakheti region

by Salome Modebadze

20.07.2012. Thousands of families in Kakheti, in the Samtskhe-Javakheti and Mtskheta-Mtianeti regions remained homeless after the heavy rainstorm and hail on July 19 (read also Hail damages thousands hectares of vineyards in Kakheti). Telavi, Kvareli, Gurjaani, Lagodekhi, Akhaltsikhe, Adigeni, Bulachauri, Dusheti and Tianeti villages were terribly affected by the natural disaster which started at around 4 a.m. and lasted for over an hour. 

25 people injured by the storm were taken to hospitals; villages remain with no electricity, gas and drinking water; poultry and harvest has been destroyed; the government is counting the damage.

Telavi has seems to have been the main target of the rainstorm. According to preliminary reports, 770 houses remained roofless and 80-100% of agricultural lands have been destroyed. The situation is almost the same in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Mtskheta-Mtianeti, but the cleaning activities are under way.

President Mikheil Saakashvili said at a special government session in Telavi, that the state would refund the damage. Promising that no one would remain homeless, Saakashvili said the Minister of Defense, Dimitri Shashkin will take responsibility for sending reservists to each and every village so that they could help in the cleaning activities together with the other ministries.

Saakashvili addressed the governors to ensure the safety of the local population so that no one would stay without shelter and food. He said the relevant companies will mend the roofs, and gas and electricity would be soon restored. “People were waiting for the harvest,” Saakashvili said, worried that they have lost their only source of income.

The president asked the parliament members to make changes in the budget, because according to the preliminary calculations, yesterday’s damage may reach tens of millions of GEL. Saakashvili said this is very rare damage which can happen once in a century. He said the buildings restored during his governance have better quality than those built during the Soviet times. “So let us restore everything as we use to do,” he said, comparing the destroyed regions with the post-war situation.

Crying over their damaged property, the local population are praying for safety. Most of them had taken bank loans and hoped to pay them back from a good harvest. Vazha Basoshvili said the storm has destroyed everything in its way. In fear of further destruction people spent the night in the open air.

PM Vano Merabishvili will head the special team of staff dealing with the post-storm activities in Kakheti. Opposition parties also expressed their support towards the flood-affected people. The Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) also said it would cooperate with the government and provide mobile groups to assist the damaged population.

Maia Panjikidze spokesperson of the Georgian Dream said despite his great wish, Bidzina Ivanishvili has no constitutional right to directly compensate the damage. She said the Georgian Dream would ask the government for legal ways of participating in the clean-up.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will provide around 300 rain-affected people in Telavi with kitchen sets, Jerry Cans (10 litres each), folding beds, mattresses, blankets and pillows, bed sheet sets, and tents - each able to accommodate 10 people. Expressing deep sympathy with the people who lost their homes and livestock, the UNHCR Representative in Georgia, Simone Wolken, hoped that these families can restore their livelihoods as soon as possible.

The date of the parliament session is not yet known. The government continues counting the damage so that the exact number of families affected by the heavy rainstorm and the money necessary for restoring the damage will become known in a couple of days.


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