Look Out Ice, Bombs Away!

Thursday, May 17, 2001
Russian warplanes bombed an 80-km (50 mile) wide river ice floe on Thursday in an attempt to unblock a build-up of meltwater which has forced thousands of people from flooded homes in eastern Siberia, the Emergencies Ministry said. But spokeswoman Marina Ryklina said the water level remained critically high around the town of Lensk. Helicopters were still evacuating residents and delivering vital supplies to remote settlements along the Lena river. "Fighter planes have dropped another six bombs on the ice blockage, but the water level has not fallen," Ryklina said. "In Lensk the water is about five m (16 feet) above the critical level." "They've got generators to keep the hospitals running and there have not been any casualties. But the situation is bad, it is worrying," she said. Ryklina said thicker-than-normal ice had melted and surged down the Lena this week when a heatwave hit Siberia's Irkutsk region, upriver from Lensk. "But the real problem is that in the north the ice has not melted yet, and this meltwater had nowhere to go," she said. Shoigu, who is in the Sakha region overseeing the operation, said planes were still trying to destroy a mass of ice reported by Russian media to be 80 km (50 miles) wide and several meters thick, and blocking the Lena about 75 km east of Lensk. But Ryklina said the bombing was being limited in intensity because of fears that a too-rapid destruction of the ice floe could prompt flooding in Yakutsk, downriver from Lensk. Lensk was flooded in 1998 by the thawing Lena, which flows from close to Mongolia through Siberia to the Arctic. Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, born Ulyanov, is said to have taken his revolutionary name from the river. - (Reuters)

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