- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 18, 2003 

Washed Out: Spring thaw causes flooding in more than 50 villages, ruins crops

Village leader Lazgyan hopes for help.Last weekend when 60-year old Lyudmila Mirzoyan went outside as usual in the morning to work in her garden, she was astonished and didn't believe what she saw.

Apricot, pear, cherry, and plum trees already in bloom looked like sails in boundless water.

Lyudmila's village of Sis in the Ararat region was one of more than 50 settlements throughout Armenia struck by flood.

"The emergency situation that has developed on the whole territory of the republic during the last days was absolutely predictable," says head of the Press Center of the Department of Emergency Situations colonel Nikolay Grigoryan. "However, not of the sizes like that. Several dozens of residences of Siunik, Ararat, Shirak, Tavush, Gegharkunik, Vayots Dzor, Lori and other regions have suffered."

Specialists say the flooding is a result of unusually high temperatures which accelerated thawing, releasing unexpected amounts of melted snow into Armenia's streams and rivers.

"During several hours I lost my hope and the work I've been making for years, my fruit and vegetable gardens," says Lyudmila, who emigrated from Azerbaijan. "The basement where we stored flour, clothes, wheat and other foodstuff was filled with water, and walls of the house were wrecked. The soil that we have been cultivating for many years became spoiled."

Water level reached 1.5 meters in her garden and has stayed that way for nine days. She says she has "lost everything".

The destruction is significant, Lyudmila says, because she relies on food from her garden to supplement what she can afford on her 6,000 drams (about $10) pension.

Anichka Zakharyan, 67, emigrated from Baku and says she and her neighboring villagers have lived through bitter times but says: "God knows how we are going to live after this."

Villager Yeva Mirzoyan showed a room where all her belongings have been prepared for leaving.

Houses and crops have been ruined in 50 settlements."Residents of the house located in front of our place had somehow been evacuated as their house was completely surrounded with water," she said. "With great difficulty they were evacuated with the help of different bricks and tiles. I myself prepared all my belongings so that in case water reaches my room I could easily leave the place. We are empty-handed now. Up to now nobody has helped us, nobody even came to calculate the extent of damage."

Head of Sis village Yeghishe Lazgyan says damage is extensive and that thawing has caused the Hrazdan river to overflow, flooding at least 110 hectares of wheat and potato crops.

"Villages these days aren't only empty-handed but they also suffered great losses as they spent at least $300 for each hectare. During one night Sis lost all its arable fields, harvest and hope," says Lazgyan.

Lazgyan says village leaders sent an urgent note to the government asking for assistance but so far has no reply.

A task force has been assigned to assess the damage and seek compensation.

"We think that the government will do something," Lazgyan says. "Although in cases like this I don't remember a single time when a villager got compensation."


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  Photo of the week
  Spring Rites
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Spring Rites

April 13 was "Tsaghkazard", known in other places as Palm Sunday, the week before Easter, marking the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. Here, part of the commemoration includes making wreaths from branches which are worn by young people and then placed in homes. The day is also the seventh Sunday of the Great Fast, as observed among the Armenian Apostolic Church.



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