LORI — At least three people died and two others went missing on Sunday after rivers in Armenia’s northern Lori and Tavush provinces overflew their banks, leaving local settlements under water and washing away roads and a bridge.

The flash flooding also forced authorities to close Armenia’s main border crossing with Georgia and suspend rail service between the two countries.

Sections of the two national highways leading to the Bagratashen crossing were destroyed by the fast-flowing Debed and Aghstev rivers overnight following heavy rainfalls. The Armenian Interior Ministry reported one casualty in the morning. Its Rescue Service said it is searching for another man believed to have fallen into the swollen Debed.

News reports and footage posted on social media suggested that the Lori town of Alaverdi and nearby communities were hit hardest by what was the country’s worst flooding in decades. According to the Interior Ministry, most of the 232 people evacuated from their homes by early afternoon lived there.

Armenia’s national water distribution company, Veolia Djur, said the floods disrupted water supply to not only Alaverdi but also 15 other settlements in Lori.

“The level of the Debed went up by six meters, and it is not possible to approach the [regional] water main or carry out any other work at the moment,” the company said in a statement.

Also left without water were some parts of Dilijan, a resort town in neighboring Tavush. Outside the town, Tavush Governor Hayk Ghalumyan looked on as heavy trucks and excavators hastily shored up Aghstev river banks to prevent further damage to the regional highway leading to the Georgian border. Road police limited but did not block traffic through the damaged sections of the highway.

The Rescue Service reported that a short circuit caused an explosion at an inundated gas station in Alaverdi. It did not say whether anyone was hurt as a result.

The Rescue Service evacuated about three dozen people from another, bigger hotel which is located on the Debed river bank.

Another Lori town, Akhatala, and surrounding villages were reportedly cut off from the rest of the province.

A 39-week pregnant woman trapped in the town of Akhtala was evacuated by an SUV and then transferred to the medical center in Alaverdi, the Ministry of Health informs.

“The woman has given birth, the health condition of mother and child is assessed as satisfactory. We announce that we do not have flooded outpatient clinics. Some dispensaries are without electricity. The supply of first aid supplies and medicines in the regions is sufficient,” reads a press release by the ministry.

 

The Armenian government set up a task force to cope with the natural disaster uncommon for the mountainous country. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan rushed to the flooded areas in the afternoon to inspect rescue efforts and damage caused to them.

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