Massive landslide strikes Georgia – 5 people are missing
The pipeline that ships gas from Russia to Armenia is damaged. Rescue workers have now started to evacuate locals. Energy Minister Kakhi Kaladze says the top priority is to reopen the road and get the pipeline back online.
The landslide happened in Dariali Valley in northern Georgia, on the Caucasus range near the Russian border. It severed the road connecting Georgia and Russia and the rock masses that tumbled down blocked off the Tergi river and may flood Larsi border crossing, a joint Georgian-Russian checkpoint, and adjacent areas of the Russian republic North Ossetia.
A rescue operation is underway. The government stated that 15 people had been rescued. Information about the death of three people, presumable Turkish workers working on construction of the nearby Dariali hydro electric station, has yet to be confirmed by officials.
The Georgian prime minister and president, as well as the energy minister and other officials are present on the ground.
Kaladze, the energy minister, told journalists that up to 1 million cubic meter of land crumbled into the river Tergi, thus blocking the water flow and severing the main road across the Caucasus, the Georgian Military Route, which was built in early 1800s by the Russian Empire to strengthen its hold over South Caucasus.
After the Abkhazian War in the early 1990s that severed main route connecting Georgia and Russia, and war with Russia in August in 2008 that blocked Roki tunnel for transportation from Georgia proper, the GMR is the sole artery connecting Georgia and Armenia with North Caucasus.
An unknown number of light vehicles and trucks are stuck in the road.
Locals say 3 Turkish construction workers working on the Dariali hydro power plant have died. Border guards and other workers found shelter in monastery, because the landslide destroyed their homes and the places they work.
Nugzar Kipiani, governor of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, said rescue teams, police and emergency workers are at the site of the accident.