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Bombs dropped on ice floe to control flooding; It's a dog's life: Meltwater threat to Siberian town.

Residents of this Siberian town were building sand barricades on Saturday in a desperate bid to protect themselves against a surge of pent-up floodwater that has already destroyed a town upstream.

Water levels in the already-flooded Yakutsk region were nearing the critical mark. Dozens of trucks shuttled non-stop between sand pits and the ring road running around the capital of Russia's biggest diamond-mining republic, Sakha-Yakutiya.

Emergency officials co-ordinating work on building the town's defences said that a wave of meltwater more than a metre high was roaring down the Lena river and was due to have hit Yakutsk, which has a population of 200,000.

The water was released after Sukhoi Su-24 frontline bombers blasted to pieces a huge ice floe on Friday near the upstream town of Lensk, which lies 525 miles south-east of Yakutsk.

More than 80 tonnes of explosives were used against the ice floe which had caused the worst floods in a century in eastern Siberia.

The bombers, the same type Russia used in Chechnya, were sent to destroy the floe after pent-up water flooded Lensk. Many of the town's 30,000 residents had to be flown to safety by helicopter from their rooftops.

Itar-Tass quoted the head of the local government, Vasily Vlasov, as saying Lensk would probably have to be rebuilt elsewhere, such was the scale of the flood destruction.

Tass said a 70-year-old woman had drowned in Lensk overnight as she and her husband tried to flee in a boat which was hit and overturned by an ice floe.

The woman, whose body has not been recovered, is the first victim of the flooding triggered by the spring thaw after an exceptionally harsh winter.

Despite the looming disaster, many Yakutsk residents said they would not flee their homes for fear of them being looted.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 21, 2001
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