Catastrophe in Darial Gorge
By Georgy Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi. Exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
The president, prime minister and almost all members of the Cabinet, including law-enforcing ministers, are at the Kazbegi District, not far from the Russian border, where an ecological and humanitarian catastrophe occurred on Saturday: heavy rain and sill deposits caused a landslide on a mountain over the Terek Gorge, blocking the river and the only road connecting Georgia and Armenia with Russia.
Information from the area of disaster is contradictory: originally, three Turkish workers had been reported dead, the information was refuted afterwards. Nonetheless, no one denies that dozens of people went missing or ended up stuck in the “stone trap.”
The landslide happened in an area where a new hydro power plant was under construction on the Russian-Georgian border. Tbilisi media started speculating that the construction, in particular the tunnels, were the cause of the landslide. Minister for Energy Kakha Kaladze denied the rumours immediately and said that the tunnel built for the hydropower plant was, on the contrary, “a salvation” because the River Terek, blocked by the landslide, was given a route to flow through. The landslide did not grow and become a threat to nearby Kazbegi and Vladikavkaz.
Geologists believe that people were not responsible for the disaster. It was caused by the melting of a huge glacier on Mt. Kazbeg.
Traffic on the Georgian Military Road was closed. Hundreds of cars, including ones from Armenia, are turning back, because it is unknown how much time the process of clearing the route will take and whether the millions of cubic meters of earth and stone would be removed. Thus, Georgia and Armenia lost their only road to Russia. Two other roads from Georgia to Russia (through South Ossetia and Abkhazia) have been closed for a long time. The Ministry for Economic Development told Vestnik Kavkaza that the damage will be tangible for the Georgian economy because the Military Georgian Road (Verkhny Lars Customs Office) was the path for Georgian agricultural products, wine and Borjomi to Russia. Many Russian tourists used the road too. Most importantly, Armenia lost its Russian gas supply because of a break on the pipeline. Georgia will not receive its portion of gas as payment for its transit.