Devastating landslide leaves 17 people dead, 18 still missing

A devastating landslide in the resort area of Shovi, Georgia, has claimed the lives of 17 people, with 18 still missing, according to officials and news reports. The search and rescue operation has been ongoing for three days, as authorities work tirelessly to locate survivors and recover the victims. The landslide, triggered by heavy rainfall and exacerbated by recent erosion, struck the picturesque mountain region known for its mineral springs and rugged landscapes. As the community grapples with the aftermath of this tragedy, the full extent of the damage and the identities of the victims are yet to be determined.

The head of the Georgian Internal Affairs Ministry’s Emergency Management Service, Temur Mgebrishvili, confirmed the death toll and expressed concern for the 18 individuals who remain unaccounted for. So far, only seven of the deceased have been identified, with DNA analysis expected to determine the identities of the remaining victims. The landslide, believed to be a result of heavy rainfall and the fragile state of the area due to erosion, has left the community in shock and mourning.

Efforts to rescue survivors and provide assistance have been underway since the landslide struck. Over 200 people have been evacuated from the area, while helicopters and rescue dogs have been deployed to aid in the search operation. The Red Cross has reported significant damage to bridges and roads in the region, further complicating rescue efforts. One survivor, Mariam Berianidze, shared her harrowing experience of being half-buried in the landslide for two hours. She recounted the terrifying rumble and the sight of trees falling around her, as well as witnessing three people being swept away.

Merab Gaprindashvili, a geologist from Georgia’s National Environmental Agency, explained that the landslide was a result of multiple factors and is unlikely to recur. He highlighted the melting of two glaciers in the river’s headwaters, combined with heavy rainfall, as contributing factors. Georgia is no stranger to heavy rains and flooding, with its steep slopes posing a constant risk of landslides.

The Shovi area, nestled in a remote valley approximately 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of the capital Tbilisi, attracts visitors with its natural beauty and therapeutic mineral springs. The authorities will continue their search and rescue efforts in the area, hoping to find survivors amidst the devastation.