Around 300 tourists, including more than 100 foreigners, are trapped in the mountainous Elbrus area of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic in the Russian Caucasus following a mudslide. Russian emergency services are preparing to evacuate the tourists.
“There are 301 tourists in the area of the mudslide, they were trapped due to blocking of the Prokhladniy-Azau road. The situation is not critical, there is enough food and other things for a month,” an Emergencies Ministry spokesman said, as cited by RIA Novosti.
Video footage posted on Twitter shows powerful flows of water which have apparently washed out the road. Three cars carrying people fell into the Baksan river, while two people were saved and the emergency services continue to look for three others who are missing. Over 3km of A-158 federal road have been damaged in the seven locations, according to the Emergencies Ministry.
Around 7,700 people could be affected by the disaster as the mudslide washed out roads connecting the area to other parts of the region.
“According to preliminary data, there could be around 7,700 people in the area, they are now cut off from the rest of the republic,” the head of the Elbrus region, Kanshaubiy Zalikhanov, said, as cited by TASS.
There could be up to 260 foreign citizens in the area, according to the official.
“Foreign nationals who have tickets for today or tomorrow need to be provided support, they need help,” he said.
The two mountain lakes which ruptured and caused the mudslide are almost empty, thus new mudslides are not probable, according to the head of Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, Yury Kokov.
“Despite the harsh weather conditions we’ve been able to reach [by helicopter] and inspect the two lakes which spilled. Currently they are almost empty, no new ‘strikes’ are expected there,” Kokov told reporters, adding that it was the first time since the 1960s the two lakes had ruptured.
Over 360 emergency response specialists and 40 vehicles are participating in the ongoing search and rescue operation, the Emergencies Ministry said in a statement. Three Mi-8 helicopters are being used to evacuate the trapped tourists and deliver medical supplies and food.
Operatives from the ‘Leader’ center of high-risk rescue operations and a team of scientists are ready to be dispatched to the region aboard an Emergencies Ministry Il-76 plane.
“A 30-man detachment of the ‘Leader’ center with the necessary equipment will shortly head for Kabardino-Balkaria to carry out blasting operations to restore the road as fast as possible,” a source in the ministry told TASS.