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Uzbek Authorities Launch Probe Into Burst Dam That Prompted Mass Evacuation

At least 70,000 people were evacuated after the dam burst.
At least 70,000 people were evacuated after the dam burst.

Uzbek authorities on May 3 launched a criminal probe after a newly constructed dam burst, prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from both Uzbekistan and neighboring Kazakhstan.

The dam of the Sardoba Reservoir in the eastern Uzbek region of Sirdaryo burst early on May 1 and at least 70,000 people have been evacuated, while more than 50 people were hospitalized.

Over 600 homes in southern Kazakhstan have also been flooded.

Uzbekistan's State Prosecutor said on May 3 that a criminal probe had been opened into "official negligence" and construction rules violations.

The Sardoba Reservoir was completed in 2017 after seven years of construction work that began under the supervision of current President Shavkat Mirziyoev, who was prime minister at the time.

Mirziyoev on May 1 flew to the region to oversee the evacuation and cleanup operation. The region had experienced strong winds and heavy rains prior to the collapse of the dam.

Officials in Kazakhstan's southern Turkistan region, where more than 5,000 people have been evacuated so far, have criticized Uzbekistan for not providing timely information on the status of flood control.

"We have a copy of our correspondence with the Uzbek side, that as of (8 p.m. on May 1) the situation was stable and there were no problems," said Saken Kalkamanov, deputy governor of the Turkistan region, on May 2.

"They said that not a drop of water would reach Maktaraal district," he said, referring to the area where the flood hit. "Nevertheless, what happened has happened."

Kazakh officials say the floods caused crop damage worth more than $400,000 -- mostly to cotton.

Uzbekistan also has signed a $23 million contract with China for the construction of a hydroelectric power station at the site of the dam.

The Chinese hydroelectric project had been scheduled for completion in 2022.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, and AFP
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