Emergency declared around Olympic city Sochi because of floods

Wed Sep 25, 2013 11:29pm EDT
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SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Regional authorities declared a state of emergency in Sochi and evacuated a village because of flooding and mudslides less than five months before the Russian city hosts the Winter Olympics.

Knee-high puddles in the city centre caused long traffic jams after heavy rain, a Reuters photographer said, and firefighters were pumping water from the streets.

An emergency services spokeswoman said a state of emergency had been declared but that water levels were receding on Wednesday in Sochi.

"Now the situation has started to stabilize," she said.

A highway leading to some of the Alpine event venues was flooded by up to 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) of water, which emergency workers said they were trying to drain, the regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Residents were evacuated from Kepsha, a village near the highway, that was threatened by mudslides, it said.

Alexander Zhukov, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee, told state television he had no doubt Sochi would be ready for the Games, which open on February 7 and will be a crucial part of President Vladimir Putin's legacy.

Not only would Sochi be ready to welcome world athletes and guests but Russia's hosting will be "high level," Zhukov told Rossiya-24 television in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

Putin, who has staked his personal reputation and Russia's prestige on a successful Olympics, ordered officials last week to quickly overcome failures and delays in preparations, saying he expected nothing less than a "brilliant Games".   Continued...

People take pictures of a car stranded in floodwaters along a flooded street in Sochi, September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov