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Kazakh Town Destroyed After Dams Burst, 35 Dead

ALMATY -- At least 35 people have been killed and thousands evacuated from the southeastern Kazakh town of Qyzylaghash and nearby villages after floodwaters destroyed two dams in the area, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Ilyas Biyakhmetov, a spokesman for the Almaty Oblast governor, said that 70 percent of Qyzylaghash is completely destroyed.

Melting snow and days of heavy rain in the area burst a dam in a district north of Almaty -- Kazakhstan's largest city -- while the other dam broke in the Karatal district.

Rescue operations to the affected area are being hindered by damage to the main highway connecting the area with Taldy-Qorghan and Almaty.

President Nursultan Nazarbaev said at a government meeting today that the owner of the privately owned dam whose rupture destroyed Qyzylaghash, a village of 3,000 people, could face prosecution for failing to take adequate safety measures against annual spring flooding.

One of the evacuated residents of Qyzylaghash, Razbek Alyqqan, told RFE/RL that relatives who live close to one of the dams warned him that the water level was reaching a critical point and urged him to flee the town with his family.

"We left everything, including our livestock. Everything is destroyed, but thank God we are alive," Alyqqan said.

Kazakh officials expect the death toll to increase. A woman who managed to escape the area told RFE/RL in Taldy-Qorghan that many people are missing and presumed dead.

Hundreds of Qyzylaghash residents are at the Taldy-Qorghan morgue trying to obtain information about or to identify missing relatives.