ALMATY (Reuters) - Thousands of people were evacuated and some were killed in Kazakhstan on Friday after severe floods destroyed two dams in the south of the Central Asian state, the emergencies ministry said.
Spring flooding is a frequent occurrence in Central Asia but a sudden rise in temperatures following weeks of heavy snow storms has exacerbated the problem this year.
The Kazakh emergencies ministry said two dams north of the financial capital Almaty had burst when melt water swept through the hilly area, flooding villages and causing mudslides.
“Some have died and their identity and number is being verified,” the ministry said in a statement.
A ministry spokesman said about 20 people were missing, citing preliminary information.
Officials at the scene could not be reached for comment and local media gave contradictory reports on the number of dead.
The emergencies ministry said the latest floods mainly affected two settlements, Zhylbulak and Kyzyl-Agash, where a total of about 4,000 people were evacuated to safer areas.
A powerful gush of water had also washed away a bridge on a highway connecting Almaty with the eastern city of Oskemen.
Separately, the ministry said a helicopter with eight people on board had disappeared from radar screens on Friday during a separate rescue operation in eastern Kazakhstan where several districts were cut off from the rest of the country by heavy snow storms.
Additional reporting by Olga Orininskaya, Masha Gordeyeva, Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Maria Golovnina; editing by Ralph Boulton