Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Russian Federation: Flood relief and rehabilitation Situation Report No. 10 (final)

Appeal no. 18/98
period covered: July - September, 1999
The Yakutia flood relief operation, launched on 23 June 1998 to assist 20,000 victims of the severe flooding that hit the Sakha Republic in May, 1998, has now been completed. With the excellent response to the appeal, some 24,000 intended beneficiaries as well as people affected by this year's spring flooding and a severe hailstorm on 3 July received Red Cross assistance in the form of food parcels, clothes, footwear, building materials, stoves, electric heaters and hygiene items. The assistance helped people recover from the disaster, persist through the 1998-99 winter, and prepare for the next winter in 2000. Despite encountering many logistical challenges, the operation was successfully implemented due to generous donor support and strong collaboration between and within the Federation/RRC and Yakutia government and administrations.

The context

The north-eastern Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) was hit by extensive flooding in May 1998 along the Lena and Aldan rivers, killing 13 people and leaving 51,000 homeless. According to the Ministry of Social Welfare and the Ministry for Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) the disaster struck 135 settlements, affecting 47,326 people. Thirty three villages with a population of 17,829 people were badly damaged; 3,720 cattle and horses perished, the fertile topsoil in an area of 38,780 hectares of arable land, already prepared for seeding, was washed away, and 1,327 tons of seed potatoes were destroyed.

The flooding was caused by unusually low temperatures, which produced up to twice the normal snowfall and a two metre deep ice layer, followed by a sudden rise in temperature and an extremely rapid snowmelt. The total damage reached an estimated CHF 300 million.

To respond to the disaster, the Russian Red Cross (RRC)/Federation initiated a programme to:

  • provide relief to 20,000 of the most vulnerable persons;
  • improve health and hygiene conditions;
  • help people return home; and
  • assist them during the prolonged winter period.

The arctic climate in the Sakha Republic includes permafrost conditions, and the temperatures drop to as low as -60 C. Geographic isolation means that access to and transportation in the entire area can be extremely difficult, with rivers navigable only between 15 May and 15 October while winter roads are usable only from 10 December until the middle of April.

Red Cross/Red Crescent action

The Yakutia flood relief operation started on 23 June 1998 and was intended to last until September, but the impact of the economic crisis in Russia and the continuing hardships in Yakutia forced an extension of the programme. Between July and August 1998 transportation was planned, a tendering process undertaken, commodities procured and delivered to the town of Ust-Kut in Irkutsk oblast and subsequently loaded onto a rented barge.

In September 1998 the first phase of the programme ended as 10,000 beneficiaries along the banks of the Lena river received assistance in the form of food products, soap, bed linen, blankets, clothes and footwear. Refer to the attached Table #1.

The purchase of goods was carried out in Moscow and Irkutsk by the Delegation: food stuffs, hygiene kits and felt boots were procured in Irkutsk, and warm clothing and bedding in Moscow.

The second phase of the programme delivered aid to more than 14,000 beneficiaries (although it was intended to assist another 10,000) in 11 uluses (50 settlements). The number of beneficiaries increased due to this year's spring flooding which perceptibly affected some settlements, and a hailstorm on 3 July which damaged crops and plantations and killed several people in Vilyuisk.

At of the request of Yakutia regional administration, assistance was also rendered to the Eldikan Elderly home, the Olyekminsk Orphanage, and the Kapitonovka Boarding house for pensioners and invalids.

The 1999 assistance consignment consisted of food parcels, clothes and felt boots for adults and children, stoves, electric heaters, as well as blankets and hygiene items donated by Johnson & Johnson healthcare company. Refer to the attached Table #2.

Outstanding needs

The operation was implemented as planned, and there are no outstanding needs.

External relations - Government/UN/NGOs/Media

The Russian Red Cross (RRC), Yakutia Red Cross Committee and Administration, and the Moscow Delegation collaborated closely on the operation, receiving effective support from the Government of the Sakha Republic. Regular contact was maintained with the President of the Sakha Republic, a Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign, Health, Social Welfare and Trade and Transport ministers as well as the head of EMERCOM.

On 22 March the Minister of Social Welfare met with the Federation/RRC representatives in Moscow to exchange information concerning the relief preparations and the plan of action. The appeal, launched on 22 June, with a press-release distributed both in Russia and among PNSs had a positive media response, including from the BBC, CNN and Russian journalists who expressed an interest in travelling to the affected area to cover the situation.

During the relief missions a number of Yakutian television, radio and newspaper reporters relayed information related to the daily progress of the relief barge. Two press conferences for local media were held in Yakutsk - on 2 September 1998 and on 12 July this year.

The Federation's Information delegate, reporting officer and the RRC programme relief co-ordinator together with an Independent Television News (UK) team conducted a three-day field-trip to Yakutsk on 9-12 July this year to monitor and cover the final stage of the Yakutia operation. The journalists were taken to the settlement of Grafsky Bereg and Partizan to visit the victims of flooding - multi-child families - and deliver food parcels. They also visited a boarding house for pensioners and invalids in the village of Kapitonovka (45 km away from Yakutsk), which was also affected by the flooding.


See Annex 1 for the detailed final financial report.


The Yakutia flood relief operation provided timely and effective assistance to more than 24,000 victims of flooding, who received basic items following the disaster. The operation was very complex in terms of logistics, accessibility to the region, and transportation, but due to strong collaboration between and within the Federation/RRC and Yakutia government and administrations as well as timely and effective donor support, the programme was fully implemented and the image and capacity of the Russian Red Cross and its Yakutia branch in particular has been increased.

Bjorn Eder
Europe Department

Peter Rees-Gildea
Operations Funding and Reporting Department