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From the St. Petersburg times
Disappointed by Y2K? Disaster Aplenty In Store for Russia
By Jen Tracy
Y2K may have proved disappointing, but an entire new year of imminent disasters promises to make up for it - so the prognosis goes. For Russia, the year 2000 could very well be one of deadly atomic explosions, radioactive fallout, nuclear waste catastrophes, floods and fires. And the prophet isn't Nostradamus this time around, but Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry. The potential disasters awaiting Russia were laid out in great detail on Monday by Emergency Ministry specialists in the Russian daily newspaper Segodnya. By their confirmed expert accounts, there are few safe places to be found in Russia's 11 time zones. Given the nature of the potential disasters - most being of a nuclear nature - there's relatively little citizens can do to protect themselves. At the very least, drinking the water here is inadvisable. If the past is anything to go on, Russia's future crop of bad news will verge on the apocalyptic. A roundup of 1999's headlining disasters reads like a page out of Revelations: "Locusts Attack Siberian Crops"; "3 Electrocuted on Bus"; "Chernobyl Still Causing Health Woes"; "Nuclear Plant Ablaze"; "Radioactive Fish Fed to Orphans"; "Radioactive Cranberries Discovered in Market"; "Toxic Sludge Threatens St. Pete Water." Topping off the Ministry's list of potential disasters this year are imminent nuclear catastrophes - all too familiar to survivors of Chernobyl - at any number of the country's atomic energy plants, nuclear waste dumps and nuclear recycling plants with facilities badly in need of serious repair. According to the Ministry, Russia's nuclear energy complexes are all located within 30 kilometers of 1,300 populated places; catastrophes at these plants would endanger the lives of 4 million people. Of particular concern to the Ministry are nuclear waste containers buried in the Karsky Sea, which are sending a flow of radioactive water to the shores of Newfoundland, exceeding radiation safety levels by as much as 10 times. Specialists are analyzing the safety conditions of all such plants and are confident that in the near future, all such facilities will be in stable working order - but for now, questions concerning the safety of these plants have been raised. Explosions, fires and automobile accidents - as well as more natural disasters like floods, earthquakes and landslides - should keep the Ministry busy as well. During the first 11 months of last year, 26,944 people died in automobile accidents. The Emergency Ministry says one way to cut down on such deaths in 2000 is to improve action time on the part of ambulance drivers and police. The time it takes for injured persons to receive treatment or help at the scene of an accident leads to many otherwise preventable deaths, said Mikhail Shakhramanyan, the man behind the Ministry's grim prophecy. Ministry specialists also predict between 50 and 60 human catastrophes a month. The most troublesome months apparently will be February, April and December. Fires in residential buildings, careless throwing away of dangerous chemicals, exploding pipes and electrical fires in communal apartments and collapsing buildings are the most common of Russia's such disasters. Shakhramanyan and his colleagues say these are most likely to happen in Moscow, the Moscow Oblast, St. Petersburg, Irkutsk, Kamchatka, Kemerovo, Magadan, Perm, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Chitinsky Oblast, Yakutsky Krai and Krasnoyarsksky Krai. Floods are predicted for between April and June for the Arkhangelsk and Vologodsky Oblasts, the Komi Republic and the Krasnoyarsky Krai, as well as the Nenetsky and Chukotsky regions. As for acts of terrorism in 2000, the Ministry says the fate of the future is entirely in the hands of politics. Despite its somewhat apocalyptic tone, the Monday article was apparently not intended to cause widespread panic. "Of course, it's not set in stone that Russia will experience all of these predicted disasters," Shakhramanyan said.
-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), January 19, 2000
This all but admits: "We're running on manual and the technicians are getting tired."
-- Bill P (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 19, 2000.