by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Aug 15, 2013
Russian Railways on Thursday closed a section of the legendary Trans-Siberian railway because if serious flooding, potentially delaying a train en route from Moscow to the far eastern city of Vladivostok.
Flood water washed away some of the stone ballast supporting the track in the far eastern Amur region after a nearby river reached a "critical level", Russian Railways said in a statement on its website.
Repair workers were propping up the affected area with concrete slabs and adding more crushed stones after the track was closed at a distance of around 7,500 kilometres (4,700 miles) from the capital.
The repairs were expected to cause delays to the Moscow-Vladivostok passenger train, the railway monopoly said. The train left Moscow on Wednesday evening and was due to arrive in Vladivostok almost a week later.
Extreme flooding in the region has seen the emergency ministry evacuate more than 13,000 people from their homes.
The Trans-Siberian railway, known as the Transsib in Russian, is the most reliable means of transport across the country, which is still not fully connected by modern motorways.
The route betweeen Moscow and Vladivostok covers 9,300 kilometres (5,800 miles).
President Vladimir Putin had been informed of the floods, the Kremlin's website said, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Twitter he would fly out to the Far East on Thursday evening to survey the damage.
Russia floods could see up to 100,000 evacuated: minister
The deluge has been declared a natural disaster in the worst-affected regions of Amur and Khabarovsk, where Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the army to participate in rescue operations.
Minister of Regional Development Viktor Ishayev said more than 17,000 people had been evacuated and "in the worst-case scenario up to 100,000 people could be evacuated."
In a video conference with regional leaders Putin was quoted by local news agencies as saying: "We should not relax, there is still an enormous amount of work."
"Large areas are flooded, telephone and electricity lines, roads and bridges have been damaged in dozens of towns. The damage is enormous," Putin added.
He promised that all damaged infrastructure would be repaired, and that while the situation was difficult it was "under control".
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said 3.2 billion rubles (73 million euros) had been put aside for the affected regions, according to the Interfax news agency.
Temporary shelters have been opened up, mostly in schools, to shelter evacuated residents.
Massive rains since the end of July saw the Amur River -- the longest in Siberia which borders northeastern China -- burst its banks, as well as one of its tributaries the Zeya.
Devastating floods last July in the town of Krymsk in the south west killed 172 people and raised questions about the authorities' handling of disasters.
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