Vladikavkaz (Russia), Sept. 21 (Reuters): A huge glacier slid down a mountain side in southern Russia, tearing 20 km through rural communities and leaving possibly as many as 100 people dead, emergency officials said today.
An emergencies ministry spokeswoman said a massive chunk of ice broke away from the Maili glacier in the Caucasus mountain range last night, sending a towering wall of ice, mud and rocks thundering into the region of North Ossetia.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said the piece of rogue ice which had ripped through an area around the village of Karmadon had been between 70 and 100 metres thick.
“It is a huge catastrophe. I can not remember anything like it,” he said in televised comments, adding that the main priority now was to rescue survivors.
Rescue officials stressed that with communications devastated in the rural region it was difficult to give anything more than an approximate number of those who could have died.
But Mikhail Shatalov, head of the North Ossetia regional government, told Itar-Tass news agency that as many as 100 people might have lost their lives.
Regional officials said Karmadon, the main village in the area where about 30 people lived, had been virtually entombed in ice and the area around it devastated.
“There were up to 30 people there, between 12 and 15 houses. It is practically covered with ice and there is little hope that anyone could survive,” regional leader Alexander Dzasokhov told Russian television.