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Turkmen Activists Say Authorities Blocking Aid From Abroad For Storm-Ravaged East

The devastating storm late last month reportedly damaged many buildings and properties.
The devastating storm late last month reportedly damaged many buildings and properties.

TURKMENABAT, Turkmenistan -- Activists in Turkmenistan say authorities are preventing the distribution of aid they've collected from foreign sources to give to residents of the country's storm-ravaged eastern regions.

The activists say the blocked aid was donated by Turkmen citizens in other countries to help residents in the regions of Lebap and Mary who are not receiving government assistance.

The activists told RFE/RL that security officials have detained aid workers who were trying to identify people in the east who need aid.

Ashgabat has been silent about the devastating storm that hit the area on April 27 and was followed by heavy rains, leaving scores of people with damaged houses and ruined livestock shelters.

One of the activists, who took part in the fundraising program, told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that a group of Turkmen in the United States raised $5,000 for residents of the Lebap region, who desperately need help, but that money never reached them.

"The group in the United States also found a way to transfer that amount to Turkmenistan, but security officials somehow found out who exactly received the money, summoned them, and warned them that they would be jailed if they distributed even a single dollar from America among people in Turkmenistan," the activist said.

Human rights groups have criticized Turkmen authorities for ignoring the needs of people affected by the storm and heavy rains and detaining residents for filming the damage caused.

RFE/RL correspondents said they counted at least 30 people, including many children, killed by the storms in the Lebap region.

The Independent Turkmen News website quoted a medical official in Turkmenabat as saying that, in the regional capital alone, the storms killed 300 people.

Videos that circulated on the Internet showed roofless buildings and private homes that had been destroyed inside.

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