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The great bear escape - animals and people evacuated from the worst floods in 120 years

By The Siberian Times reporter
20 August 2013

Flooding now covers an area almost as large as France, Germany and Britain combined, or close to the equivalent of Texas and California.

A further rise in the water level is expected in the coming days, said an official in the press service of the Russian Ministry for Emergencies (RME) centre for Khabarovsk Territory. By August 25, water levels may reach the 700 cm mark. A flood wave will move along the Amur and reach Nikolayevsk -on-Amur by 9 September, it is forecast. Picture: Russian Emergencies Ministry

More than 20,000 residents were moved as rivers burst their banks with forecasts that up to 100,000 may need evacuation. Flooding now covers an area almost as large as France, Germany and Britain combined, or close to the equivalent of Texas and California. 

Unlike in China, where 111 have been reported dead with 115 missing in the flooding, Russia has so far suffered no fatalities. 

Two caged bears from the  Zelyonaya tourist resort near Blagoveshchensk, in Amur Region, were airlifted to safety they were threatened with drowning. 

Dramatic pictures from the regional branch of the Russian Emergencies Ministry showed the great bear escape with the cages slung under a helicopter as they were moved to safety. The rescue act came two weeks after their cage was first flooded. 

great bear escape flooding 2013


great bear escape flooding 2013


great bear escape flooding 2013


great bear escape flooding 2013


great bear escape flooding 2013

The great bear escape... safely on dry land. Pictures: Russian Emergencies Ministry

They were moved to high ground 800 metres from the resort with a keeper to care for them, reported RIA Novosti.

'We will hire a man who will take care of the bears and feed them. The bears will stay here until the water level falls,' said Zelyonaya resort director Grigory Nikishin. 

However, the main focus was on people's safety after dramatic floods caused by heavy rain which has devastated Amur, Khabarovsk and Jewish Autonomous regions. Dikes were being build in a frantic bid to protect the city of Khabarosk from flooding with emergency staff working round the clock with water in the Amur expected to reach  close to 8 metres in depth.

In some areas the water is 2 metres above critical levels. In the Jewish Autonomous Region, 560 houses are flooded, some to the roofs, in 24 settlements.

All 500 villagers were Belgo, population 500, were due to be evacuated.

More than 6000 homes have been hit across these regions.  More than 20,000 have been evacuated. Some 140 settlements have suffered from flooding.

Other sources said that more than 33,000 live in homes touched by partial flooding.

'Our dacha is swimming', one female villager near Khabarovsk told the NTV channel. 'People's garages are submerged to the roof. All in all, everything is terrible.'

60 bridges and 200 sections of road are underwater. 

Some of Russia's best agricultural land has been decimated with crops and cattle lost, and there is a threat of the spread of disease. 

'Over the past 24 hours, water level in the Amur River in the area of Khabarovsk rose by 17 cm, reaching a historical maximum of 657 cm on Monday morning,' reported Itar-Tass. 

A further rise in the water level is expected in the coming days, said an official in the press service of the Russian Ministry for Emergencies (RME) centre for Khabarovsk Territory. By August 25, water levels may reach the 700 cm mark. A flood wave will move along the Amur and reach Nikolayevsk -on-Amur by 9 September, it is forecast.

'The most serious situation is observed near Arkhangelovka Village on Tunguska River where water level may rise to ten metres.' 

'A technical group has been set up in the city to build provisional dikes. The riverbank consolidating operations are involving about 30 bulldozers, truck-mounted cranes, excavators, graders, and dumper-trucks.'

Some 30,000 emergency workers have been deployed to tackle the flooding. 

See the Great Bear Escape, courtesy Russian Emergencies Ministry: 

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