Rescuers work at the mudslide area in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia, on Sept. 1, 2017. More than 500 people, including over 130 foreigners from over 10 countries, were blocked by a mudslide in a mountainous area in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria located in southwestern Russia, Russian media reported quoting sources in local emergency services on Friday. (Xinhua/Sputnik)
MOSCOW, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Search and rescue operations have started at the scene of the mudslide in southwestern Russia, with the aim to evacuate all those who remain trapped, Russia's Emergencies Ministry said Friday.
"There are 525 tourists in Elbrus, 224 of them are staying at tourist bases and the others continue to climb," Igor Oder, head of the Southern Regional Center of Russia's Emergencies Ministry, said in a statement, referring to the Elbrus region in Kabardino-Balkaria Republic. "Among them there are more than 130 foreign citizens. We are ready to evacuate them all and take them out of the emergency zone."
The Chinese Embassy in Russia has confirmed that no Chinese tourists were trapped in the emergency zone.
Earlier reports said a powerful mudslide from the slopes of the Adyl-Su gorge blocked access to about 30 tourist bases with more than 500 people, including 133 from China and other 13 countries.
According to the emergencies ministry's latest statement, five settlements and 10 tourist bases, as well as 49 walking tourist groups, were cut off.
A total of 341 people and 47 units of equipment, including two MI-8 helicopters and eight buses with a total seating capacity of 350, were involved in the ongoing search and rescue operation, the ministry said.
The latest information from rescuers said three cars carrying five people fell into the Baksan River in the vicinity of Elbrus; two of them were rescued and three others remain missing.
Eight sections of a federal highway were damaged in the Elbrus region due to heavy rainfall, rising water levels in the Baksan River and the descent of mudflows from the slope of Adyl-Su gorge, the ministry said.
A local gas pipeline was also damaged, and gas supplies to more than 600 private homes in five settlements were disrupted, it added.
TASS news agency reported that about 7,700 people could be in the blocked area due to the loss of roads, while Interfax news agency said there were 260 foreign tourists who needed help in the zone.