News24

Mayor held over Kazakh floods

2010-03-15 18:03

Almaty - The mayor of a Kazakh village devastated by flooding and the local emergency services chief have been arrested as part of a criminal investigation into the disaster, the interior ministry said on Monday.

At least 35 people are confirmed to have died and thousands were left homeless after a dam overspilled in southern Kazakhstan, unleashing torrential flooding in the energy-rich country.

The arrests of the mayor of the village of Kyzyl-Agash and the head of the emergency services for the surrounding Aksu region came after Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev called for prosecutions.

Criminal proceedings


"In the course of the investigation the mayor of the Kyzyl-Agash rural district... (and) head of emergency services of the Aksu region, were arrested and placed in temporary detention," the interior ministry statement said.

It added that the "prosecutor's office has initiated... criminal proceedings".

Torrential rains and early melting snow triggered the bursting of the reservoir dam outside the village of Kyzyl-Agash, in the region of Kazakhstan's biggest city Almaty.

The ensuing floodwaters left hundreds of homes in ruins.

A second incident in the nearby settlement of Karatalsky resulted in the entire dam being washed away, officials said, forcing the evacuation of a village of 820 people.

The wealthiest of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, Kazakhstan has sought to promote a glitzy image to foreign investors in recent years as a booming modern nation, rich in natural resources.

Ageing infrastructure

But like other ex-Soviet countries, it has struggled to maintain its ageing infrastructure and has been hit by a series of disasters in recent years as a result.

In the worst incident, a fire at a drugs treatment facility in the regional capital of Taldykorgan in September killed at least 38 people.

Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, before which he was its top Communist Party official, and shows little sign of ceding power.

He said on Saturday that while recent earthquakes in Chile and Turkey could not have been prevented, the failure to check the safety of the dam and give sufficient warning for full evacuation "needs to be seen as a crime".

AFP