29 december 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on the earthquake in Tuva and natural disasters in other Russian regions

The prime minister has called for active efforts to provide relief to the regions affected by the earthquake and other recent natural disasters.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Shoigu, let’s begin with Tuva. Unfortunately, we have problems related to climate and natural hazards again as the New Year approaches. Thank God, the earthquake did not cause any major destruction or casualties, but temperatures are very low in the area. The first thing I asked you to do was to take care of the people. What’s going on there now? Please tell us.

Sergei Shoigu  (Minister of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief): Mr Putin, I will start at the beginning.  The earthquake hit on December 27 at 7:21 p.m. Moscow time, 100 km to the east of the city of Kyzyl at a depth of 10 km and a magnitude of 6.7 on the Richter scale.

Vladimir Putin: The initial estimate was 50 km, correct?

Sergei Shoigu: We now have the updated information from the Institute of Physics of the Earth that it’s 10 km deep, which, in fact, benefited the situation. The earthquake's intensity was 9.5-10 points at the epicenter. The earthquake could be felt in nine Russian regions, including Tuva, Khakassia, Altai, the Altai Territory, the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Novosibirsk and Tomsk regions. The earthquake affected 62 municipal districts, 1,073 towns and villages, over 370,000 buildings with over six million residents, 7,000 socially important facilities and 600 potentially hazardous facilities, including hydraulic structures, dams, petrochemical facilities and other hazardous production facilities.

In order to ensure proper management of rescue units, operational groups were formed within one hour and a state of emergency was introduced in the republic. Six makeshift shelters for 3,500 people were erected in Kyzyl within the first three hours of the earthquake. Even more work was done after I reported to you. The 35,950 -strong task force and 4,380 units of equipment was placed on alert in the affected areas. In Tuva, we put on alert 1,615 people, 740 units of equipment and 16 aircraft. Everything that is necessary was delivered to Tuva, In addition, we have prepared reserve shelters in order to meet additional needs for accommodation.

Moreover, our smallest temporary shelters can accommodate up to 150 people. The earthquake is still on. We had 25 tremors over the past 24 hours. I hope that the one we had at 5 a.m. today was the last one.

Vladimir Putin: Twenty-five tremors in 24 hours?

Sergei Shoigu: That’s right. These were aftershocks.

Vladimir Putin: Almost every hour…

Sergei Shoigu: Yes, with varying levels of intensity, from 3 to 6 points. Of course, we used the Russian emergency alert and response system. In a matter of two hours, over 5,000 miners were evacuated from 74 underground mining facilities. All regional heads were in place and carried out this work in an organised manner without panic. I would like to give credit to all emergency and disaster relief commissions in the Russian regions.

During the same night, 669 operational groups were formed and started working. These groups inspected buildings for signs of damage and assessed their suitability for accommodating people. They have continued this work. They have enlisted employees of construction design institutes and have all the instrumentation they need, including levels and theodolites. A lab for determining the stability of buildings was delivered to Tuva yesterday. We have set up hot lines and also update people through 12 television channels – six federal and six local, as well as 12 radio channels  

The hot line became operational two hours after the earthquake. We received over 11,000 phone calls in the first 24 hours, of which 2,500 were directly related to the earthquake. Unfortunately, we had 240 false calls in one of the regions. We had calls to crowded places such as schools. Unfortunately, several children’s matinees had to be cancelled. There was false information that a 12-point tremor was expected in 30 minutes and everyone needed to be evacuated…

Vladimir Putin: Where was that? What region?

Sergei Shoigu: That’s the Krasnoyarsk Territory, or rather the city of Krasnoyarsk. I’m not sure about the entire Krasnoyarsk Territory. The local government is taking appropriate measures, while we have had talks with the interior authorities and the Federal Security Service.

We believe that such things should be investigated and punished. Of course, we have activated the alert system and it is running continuously now. Each hour, we have people from our ministry and regional heads speak on the radio to update people on the latest developments. Unfortunately, some buildings were badly damaged. The bridge across the Yenisei River in Kyzyl was also damaged and can no longer accommodate the weight capacity it was designed for. We believe that it should be repaired as soon as possible, since this road leads south to Mongolia. Currently, they are inspecting all hydraulic facilities...

Vladimir Putin: What was damaged, the pillars?

Sergei Shoigu: No, bridge beams were displaced. They were shaken up and shifted positions. They have cracks in them now. Some buildings have also cracked. The problem is that most of the buildings here were built prior to seismic zoning in this republic. In other words, they were designed for earthquakes of lower magnitudes than the ones identified later by the Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Physics of Earth.

A state of emergency has been introduced in the Republic of Tuva, and operational groups are working in other regions. Of a total 35,000 service personnel, we have 3,500 on the alert, with 1,500 of that number in Tuva. They are building makeshift shelters and conducting lab analyses and inspection of all buildings.

Together with the Ministry of Regional Development we have prepared proposals for your consideration, Mr Putin, and would certainly appreciate your support of them. The first thing we need to do is fully analyse the relief results. Second, we suggest allocating funds to the Russian Academy of Sciences for building new seismic stations in Khakassia, Tuva and Altai, since there are not enough of them there. Third, we propose increasing funds used for tearing town ramshackle and unsafe residential buildings, because they have become even more unsafe now. We need to carry out this work in 2012.

Vladimir Putin: How old are these buildings?

Sergei Shoigu: Some were built before 1917; some buildings in Tuva were built before 1944. The old government building, the philharmonic halls and schools were built without consideration of the earthquake potential. All of them need to be brought up to standard in accordance with the programme for the Far East, Kamchatka, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin that you originated. We suggest including Tuva and Khakassia in this programme.

This covers our main proposals. Mr Basargin was flying from the Far East and came to…

Viktor Basargin (minister of regional development): I was there last night.

Sergei Shoigu: Perhaps he will be able to provide more details. I’m finished with my report.

Vladimir Putin: In addition to the earthquake, which we will return to momentarily, bad weather conditions in central Russia have resulted in power outages in many towns and villages. What is the situation like there now and what is being done to restore the power supply?

Nikolai Shvets (head of MRSK): Mr Putin, there were indeed interruptions in the power supply starting at 2 p.m. on December 26 in 16 Russian regions located in the Central Federal District and the Northwestern Federal District. These regions are located in the second category areas in terms of windload; therefore, these systems can withstand winds of up to 25 m/s. 

Vladimir Putin: How strong was it?

Nikolai Shvets: The storm winds reached 30 m/s with gusts of over 25 m/s. The wind damaged power lines. Over 200,000 people were left without power. We have formed headquarters and sent out emergency teams. The recovery work was further complicated by windy conditions, which lasted almost 24 hours.  Power supply has been restored in all regions except the Leningrad Region, where 3,200 customers are still without power. We have 103 teams, 130 pieces of equipment working there, and the power supply will be restored by 8 p.m., but not in full. Full supply will be restored on December 30.

Vladimir Putin: In other words, tomorrow. Thank you. Mr Basargin, you were in the area hit by the earthquake. You are also supposed to keep track of what’s going on in other regions, including the Central and Northwestern regions. What do you plan to do to rebuild the infrastructural facilities that have been destroyed? Also – and this is not part of your job, but nonetheless – please prepare a proposal concerning the bridge along with the Ministry of Transport. We should begin work in all of these areas as soon as possible. Please go ahead.

Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, I was in Kyzyl at 2 a.m. today and met with heads of the regional headquarters. We heard reports about the operation of the life support system and diagnostics in remote areas. Power and heat supplies are operating normally. Obviously, no one in town was sleeping at 2 a.m., because there were tremors just two hours before our plane landed. There was no panic. No problem at all. Local residents were regularly updated about the situation. Heads of the headquarters are addressing the people on TV, there is a telephone hot line; there are temporary shelters in one-storey buildings. In other words, the system is working.

Vladimir Putin: What about the runway?

Viktor Basargin: It’s in decent shape, there are no damages whatsoever. Plaster has fallen off and windows were shattered in many buildings. There are cracks under the building.  Two buildings are closed to visitors: a children’s outpatient clinic and one other social facility. All others are being inspected for damages. Two power lines running from Krasnoyarsk to Khakassia seem to be in good condition. We will know the final results of the inspection at 4 p.m. today local time when they are done running the diagnostics.

Indeed, the situation is complicated by the amount of unsafe and ramshackle structures. They came to you with this issue just a few days before these events, and you issued an instruction to the Ministry of Regional Development. Overall, we need about 3 billion roubles to resolve the issue of hazardous housing, to relocate people from such homes and to repair dilapidated houses. We believe this could be done through the seismology programme (which is focused on Kamchatka and Sakhalin, as you know), provided additional allocations are approved taking into account the current circumstances, so that we would be able to address the issue of Tuva next year.

Vladimir Putin: No, we cannot do this.

Viktor Basargin: But we are asking for additional allocations to the seismology programme. So far we are dealing with the issue in only two regions, and as you know, part of the funds have been released to resolve the issue of dilapidated housing in Norilsk and Tynda.

Vladimir Putin: How are things in Tynda?

Viktor Basargin: A week ago an [inspection] team went there and we have allocated the last tranche there, consisting of around 300 million roubles. Work is underway there, and we will see the results soon.

Vladimir Putin: Let’s also consider the issues of the Baikal-Amur Mainline, which we need to deal with consistently. But this is another issue entirely.

Good. What next?

Viktor Basargin: There are problems with the heat supply... We believe there could be problems with delays, because damage may not be evident immediately... The heat supply network (the dome) has been damaged; we are inspecting it now and will have complete information by the evening.

As for the bridge, they have limited, or nearly closed down access to it for traffic. They possess the necessary project documents and have tentatively estimated the cost of capital repairs (because the foundation of the bridge has been affected) at 71 million roubles.

Vladimir Putin: For repairs?

Viktor Basargin: Yes. I think that if we decided to do it, we should do so properly.

Vladimir Putin: And where will traffic go?

Viktor Basargin: It will use a bypass.

Vladimir Putin: Where?

Sergei Shoigu: There is another bridge downriver.

Viktor Basargin: Yes, they can use that, but the issue has been complicated [by bad weather]... It’s more than minus 30 degrees Celsius. Pedestrians can use the bridge, but still...

Sergei Shoigu: Mr Putin, you have rightly pointed out that we must start now, because it is much easier to do this in the winter, when the river is frozen, than to wade through the water.

Vladimir Putin: Is it frozen?

Sergei Shoigu: Yes, it is. The temperature is minus 32–34 degrees Celsius.

Vladimir Putin: Prepare the proposals necessary for formulating this in the form of instructions.

(They hand the prime minister the documents)

Vladimir Putin: Have you prepared them properly?

Viktor Basargin: Yes, we did so together.

Vladimir Putin: Are these joint proposals?

Viktor Basargin: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Good. And see to it that the team works there. Please, talk to the people; tell them that we must do everything necessary.

The weather forecast is not favourable, which is why I am asking all of you to monitor the situation so as to respond promptly to possible developments there. And we must be sure to contribute actively to the relief effort. We will allocate additional funds for the seismology programmes and for resettling people from dilapidated housing. The infrastructure is a separate issue. We have a separate programme, but before anything else, we must focus on the damaged elements.

Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, we may have to update the healthcare programme, and also to adjust the relief programmes to the new conditions.        

Vladimir Putin: Yes, we may. Do these proposals cover this issue?

Viktor Basargin: No.

Vladimir Putin: Add it.

Viktor Basargin: We are still waiting for information about the children’s outpatient clinic.

Vladimir Putin: Please, move forward with it. We have a minor surplus of funds in the healthcare modernisation programme, which we could use to resolve these issues.

Viktor Basargin: We will update the damage assessment.

Vladimir Putin: Agreed.