Landslide activity starts early in 2006

ARAVAN, 20 Feb 2006 (IRIN) — A landslide on Sunday ripped through a road linking the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh with the Aravan district, blocking traffic and destroying electricity and telephone services to the area, with no casualties reported.

“The traffic is very intense on this road but luckily no one was there when the landslide hit. I saw from a distance how a large landmass slid down and blocked the road,” Usar Khalikov, a local taxi driver who witnessed the landslide, said in Osh.

The affected area, some 16 km from Osh to the district capital of Aravan, is located in the low-lying eastern edge of the densely populated Ferghana Valley shared by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

“Landslides are very unusual for this place. They generally happen in mountainous areas,” Sakhobidin Turgunov, head of the local provincial emergencies department, said in Osh.

According to the Kyrgyz emergencies ministry, heavy snow and rain followed by temperatures rising sharply over the past few weeks triggered the landslide, which is estimated to have cost US $20,000’s worth of damage. A bypass road was built shortly after Sunday’s incident.

But there may be worse to come, with more landslides likely in the area after the recent weeks of heavy rain, experts said. Normally, such natural hazards only begin at the end of March or beginning of April.

There are some 2,500 landslide-prone areas in the mountainous Central Asian state, of which 40 percent pose a threat to settlements. Some 90 percent of such areas are located in the south of the country.

The Central Asian region, including Kyrgyzstan, is prone to various natural disasters, including earthquakes, landslides, floods, avalanches and drought.

According to the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), natural disasters have killed about 2,500 people and affected some 5.5 million, almost 10 percent of the total population in the region, over the past decade.

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