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Russia

Record floods in eastern Russia could force mass evacuations

The worst floods in 120 years in eastern Russia are threatening 100,000 people with evacuation from their homes. There are no casualties as yet.

The floods have been caused by rain in the the Amur, Khabarovsk and Jewish Autonomous regions near the Amur river which forms the border between the far east of Russia and northeastern China.

Heavy rain since the end of July saw the Amur, the world's 10th-longest river and the longest in Siberia, burst its banks, as did one of its tributaries: the Zeya.

"The damage is extensive, but the most significant achievement is there have been no casualties ... we cannot relax, there is still a lot of work to be done," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised address on Saturday.

"Large areas are flooded, telephone and electricity lines, roads and bridges have been damaged in dozens of towns," Putin added. "The damage is enormous." He promised that all damaged infrastructure would be repaired, and that, though the situation was difficult, it remained "under control".

Tens of thousands of emergency services employees and civilians are working to keep the Amur river at bay. Temporary shelters have been opened up, mostly in schools, for evacuated residents.

Regional Development Minister Viktor Ishayev said ´that more than 17,000 people had been evacuated and "in the worst-case scenario up to 100,000 people could be evacuated."

About 5,300 houses in more than 120 communities had been swamped by the flooding, Civil Defense Minister Vladimir Puchkov told Putin in a videoconference broadcast on state television.

Yevgeni Dod, of the state-run energy supplier Rushydro, spoke of the region's worst flooding in 120 years.

"The level of the Amur could reach 6.5 meters (21.45 feet) in the metropolis of Khabarovsk on Monday," said Wyacheslav Parshin of the hydrometeorological service. "That would be 8 centimeters (about 3 inches) higher than the hundred-year-flood level of 1898."

jm/mkg (Reuters, AP, AFP)