At least seven people have been killed and more than 30 others are missing after a landslide in the western Georgian region of Racha, Georgia’s prime minister said on Friday.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said that rescuers were on the scene and that he had called in the army to help with search efforts.
“Unfortunately, seven bodies have been found so far. It is a very difficult situation… they are looking for more than 30, but let’s wait for the results,” he said.
The interior ministry said in an earlier post that 140 people had been evacuated. Two helicopters and rescue dogs were involved in the search efforts.
Images showed rescue workers picking through debris partially buried by the moved earth.
Teams worked with their hands and with excavators to shift the soil.
The landslide took place on Thursday in Shovi, a small resort area in Georgia’s mountainous northwest famed for its vast forests and natural springs.
Merab Gaprindashvili, a geologist from Georgia’s National Environmental Agency, said Thursday’s landslide was caused by a combination of factors and was unlikely to happen again.
“In particular, there are two glaciers in the headwaters of the river, which are intensively melting. This was accompanied by heavy rainfall,” he said in a televised interview.
Heavy rains and flooding are not uncommon in Georgia, where steep slopes pose a risk of landslides.
In 2008 six people were killed by a landslide in the southern Black Sea region of Adjara.