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100 Feared Dead in Russia Avalanche

September 21, 2002

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GIZEL, Russia (AP) _ A collapsing glacier triggered an avalanche of ice and mud in southern Russia, burying an entire village and killing as many as 100 people, officials said Saturday.

Emergency workers said the avalanche began Friday when part of a glacier in the Caucasus Mountains broke off above the village of Nizhny Karmadon in the southern republic of North Ossetia

Mikhail Shatalov, the prime minister of the Russian republic of North Ossetia, told the ITAR-Tass news agency that up to 100 people were feared dead.

An emergency official at the scene said on condition of anonymity that the village of about 50 people was almost entirely covered in ice and that there was little chance of finding anyone alive there.

Among the missing in the area was a group of 29 people, including well-known actor Sergei Bodrov Jr., who had been filming a movie, officials said.

The ice from the glacier slid 15 miles, picking up mud, trees and rocks on the way, before it stopped on the Gizel-Karmadon highway, about 6 miles from the regional capital of Vladikavkaz. Seen from the road, the path of destruction was about 300-400 yards wide.

Mikhail Maltsev, a spokesman for TVS television, said on Echo of Moscow radio that the 27 cast and crew members had been making a movie for the station in the mountains and had been missing since Friday.

Gulya Revazova, a spokeswoman for North Ossetia’s traffic police, said that two traffic police officers had accompanied the filmmakers and were also missing.

Two border guards patrolling nearby also were missing as of Friday night, the emergency official said.

Several tourist camps are located in the gorge where the glacier fell, but it was unclear whether they had been in the avalanche’s path.

Officials from North Ossetia and the nearby republic of Ingushetia, along with reporters and ambulances, converged Saturday morning on the blocked highway. Rescuers went over the ice and mud on foot to look for survivors.

Murat Batayev, head of the Ingushetia rescue service, said in the late morning that 25 people had been rescued. He did not elaborate.

Batayev said residents of Gizel, a town of about 3,000 people, might have to be evacuated because of the possibility of flooding from the Genaldon and Gizeldon rivers, which were both blocked by the avalanche.

The disaster prompted officials in North Ossetia and Ingushetia to cancel a ceremony planned for Saturday marking reconciliation between the Ingush and the Ossetians. The two ethnic groups fought a brief war in 1992 that killed hundreds and led to the expulsion of some 75,000 ethnic Ingush from their homes.

Update hourly