Almost 40 dead or missing in flood-hit western Ukraine

A total of 38 people, including eight children, are dead or listed as missing following devastating floods in western Ukraine in late July, the health ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The statement does not specify how many people have been killed in the country's worst storms in a century. Earlier reports put the death toll at 31 people, including six children, with one person unaccounted for. A total of 498 people are confirmed as having been injured, the RIA Novosti reported.

Authorities fear the floods could cause a serious health problem in the worst-hit Ivano-Frankovsk Region in western Ukraine, where almost 20 livestock burial zones, 38 cemeteries and four garbage disposal sites have been flooded. All the potential sources of infection have been cordoned off.

Thousands of people were evacuated as storms swept across western Ukraine and Moldova on July 23-27. Hundreds of towns and villages were flooded, with more than 40,000 houses affected and 2,000 homes still under water.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko subsequently declared a three-month state of emergency and parliament has allocated some $1.2 billion for disaster relief operations.

Ukraine has already received humanitarian aid from Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Czech Republic and Hungary. Aid from NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, Japan, Spain, the U.S. and Estonia is expected to arrive in the country in the near future.

Evacuations have also been announced for several flooded regions of neighboring Moldova. The country's northern areas were the hardest-hit, with key roads closed due to high water levels.

Ukrainian ecologists say uncontrolled logging in the Carpathian Mountains could have exacerbated the effects of the floods.

It is widely believed that one of the main reasons for the severe flooding seen in Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova in recent years is that deforested regions are less able to absorb water. In addition, nothing prevents water from rushing down the Carpathian Mountains in the event of heavy rains.

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