Lack of Experience to Blame for Slow Reaction

Georgian Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, has spoken out against allegations of slow reactions and mismanagement in the wake of the June 13 flooding of the Vere valley.

“I don’t want to comment on the allegations. When people die, then it’s always easy to blame the deaths on the authorities,” PM Garibashvili said. “All the allegations that the government failed to respond promptly are completely groundless.”

Critics say that the authorities, on hearing of the landslide upstream, should have at minimum prevented traffic from entering the Vere Valley highway which connects Tamarashvili Str. and Heroes Square.

Officials say that the Akhaldaba landslide which occurred 10 km outside Tbilisi, resulting from heavy rainfall and which sent around a million cubic metres of earth and rocks crashing down, blocked tunnels and created a dam, transforming a usually small stream into a raging river. The torrent of fast-flowing water, debris and mud then swept into Vake, destroying most of Svanidze street, and killing five, before entering the Vere Valley highway area.

In order to be better prepared the Georgian Government, following recommendations from geologists, architects, urban planners and engineers, plans to install Early Warning Systems along the 30km stretch of the Vere river channel, as well as construct 3 million GEL flood barriers at some sections of the river.

A resettlement plan will also be elaborated for those families still living in the danger zone and at risk should another flood occur in the Vere channel. Housing plan restrictions will also be put into force to prevent residential construction works in the risk zone.

As for the highway itself, controversial at the time of construction and built without a prior Environmental Impact Study (not required by law at the time), it will be restored in the same form until a better solution is agreed upon.
PM Garibashvili said that an alternative and ‘safer’ highway project does exist, but that its cost of 140 million GEL made it less affordable than the existing one on which around 80m GEL was spent. 

Minister of Finance, Nodar Khaduri, announced that flood damage exceeds 100 million GEL (about USD 45 mln).

“To date, 10 million GEL has been allocated from the central budget and 7.5 million GEL has been raised through donations from businesses and citizens,” Khaduri said.

Further efforts are being made to attract funding from various international financial institutions.

Georgian billionaire ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili has said that he will fill any gap in the Tbilisi flood relief funding if any occurs.

Photo: Zviad Nikolaishvili/GT

21 June 2015 12:12