Floods causing massive back-ups on Moldova-Ukraine border

Other News Materials 29 July 2008 16:35 (UTC +04:00)

High water had caused massive back-ups on the Moldova-Ukraine border on Tuesday as the region attempted to recover from the region's worst flooding in a generation.

Queues of cars were stretching up to ten kilometres on either side of the two former Soviet republics' common border, with delays according to Channel 5 television lasting as much as 24 hours.

Overflowing rivers and torrential rain pushed water levels to record highs on Sunday, killing 22 Ukrainians and causing property damage estimated at half a billion dollars.

Six water border crossings connecting the two countries across the Dniestr or Prut' Rivers were closed on Tuesday due to overwhelming current and, at some locations, water levels well above piers used by river ferries.

Two key road crossings, one along the key Chisinau-Odessa highway, were similarly shut down due to high waters blocking routes.

The border delays mostly affected lorry traffic and holiday-makers travelling between the two cities, the Infotag news agency reported.

Two road checkpoints were processing long-distance international traffic in the flooded regions, albeit with substantial delays, said Dmitru Osoianu, a Moldova Border Troops spokesman.

Overwhelming water flow in the Dniestr was threatening a hydroelectric dam near the Moldovan city Dubossari, where according to local officials water volumes were running at 3,000 cubic meters a second, against the dam's rated maximum capacity of 2,500 cubic metres a second.

A substantial increase in water volume hitting the sluiceways would force the evacuation of as many as 50,000 persons from Dubossari and surrounding villages, as the dam could not be expected to hold, Infotag reported.

Also threatened by rising water was the main water pumping station of Moldova's capital city Chisinau, located on a tributary of the Dniestr.

A rise of a half of a metre in local river levels would force a shut-down of the station, leaving the city of 600,000 with less than a week of drinking water, said Tatiana Korchak, a Chisinau official.

Ukrainian emergency workers on Tuesday likewise were still battling to shore up two Dniestr River hydroelectric dams threatening to fail and inundate hundreds of villages higher up the waterway.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during a visit to the hard-hit Ivano-Frankivsk region on Tuesday said the dams would hold but "a maximum government effort is required."

Waters throughout the lower Prut' and Dienstr were still rising on Wednesday, running as much as twenty metres above normal levels in isolated locations and ten metres along much of their length.

Evacuation continued throughout the two river's flood plains as rescue workers attempted to move mostly rural residents out of the path of rising waters.

Villagers unwillingness to leave their farm animals was widespread and was delaying government workers' efforts to save human life, Fakty newspaper reported.

Moldovan government statisticians by midday Wednesday reported the state had evacuated some 4,900 persons, leaving behind them more than 1,000 flooded homes, of which at least 100 were destroyed.

The Ukrainian numbers as of Wednesday were worse, with government record-keepers estimating some 25,000 Ukrainians had been evacuated from their homes, and as many as 10,000 homes or businesses flooded.