- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

GIZEL, Russia A 500-foot-high chunk of glacier crashed down a Caucasus mountainside, burying a village in ice, rocks and mud and leaving as many as 100 people missing and feared dead yesterday among them, a popular Russian action star who was filming a movie.
Part of the village of Nizhny Karmadon was destroyed, a government spokeswoman in Moscow said. The village, home to about 50 people, was almost entirely covered in ice, leaving little chance of finding anyone alive there, an emergency official at the scene said.
So far, authorities have identified 71 persons missing, and around 30 more were thought to be missing from the avalanche in the Russian republic of North Ossetia, said spokeswoman Marina Ryklina of the Emergency Situations Ministry.
Among those confirmed missing were 17 villagers, 14 hikers or others known to have been in the area, and 40 persons with the crew led by action star Sergei Bodrov Jr., who was directing a film.
The chunk of glacier broke off Friday night from a peak in the rugged Caucasus Mountains and slid 15 miles down the mountain, pulling up trees and dislodging mud and rocks along the way. It stopped on the Gizel-Karmadon highway about six miles from the regional capital, Vladikavkaz.
Seen from the road, the path of destruction was about 300 to 400 yards wide. North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov said the piece of glacier that collapsed was nearly 500 feet high.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the avalanche was "truly a great tragedy."
"The main task is to find the missing people, restore the region's infrastructure, I mean electric lines and vital necessities," he told reporters after meeting Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.
Mikhail Shatalov, the prime minister of North Ossetia, a tiny region about 940 miles southeast of Moscow, told the Itar-Tass news agency that up to 100 people were feared dead.
Two border guards patrolling nearby also were missing as of Friday night, an emergency official said. The area is near the border with the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Several tourist campsites are located in the gorge where the glacier fell, but it was not clear whether they had been in the avalanche's path.
Ambulances and officials from North Ossetia and the nearby republic of Ingushetia converged yesterday on the blocked highway.
Murat Batayev, head of the rescue service of Ingushetia, said in the late morning that 25 persons had been rescued. He said residents of Gizel, a town of about 3,000, might have to be evacuated because of the possibility of flooding from the Genaldon and Gizeldon rivers, which were blocked by the avalanche.
The disaster prompted officials in North Ossetia and Ingushetia to cancel a ceremony yesterday marking reconciliation between the Ingush and the Ossetians.

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