Hundreds of people have been left homeless in the northeastern Turkmen province of Lebap following severe windstorms that swept through the country.
Many parts of Lebap still remain without electricity, drinking water, and natural gas, RFE/RL correspondents reported from the scene on April 30. Mobile phone and Internet connections have been cut off, they added.
Local media reported that at least 10 people died in the April 27 disaster, while the independent news website and human rights organization Turkmen.news, based in the Netherlands, said that “dozens” of people may have died and dozens more are still unaccounted for.
A large number of people have been admitted to the main hospital in the provincial capital, Turkmenabat, with injuries sustained from falling objects during the rain and windstorms, it added.
State media in the strictly controlled Central Asian nation hasn’t reported about the destructive windstorms and the destruction they left in their wake.
“It’s as if the authorities have disappeared, no measures are being taken [by the government] to help people,” an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Lebap, describing the situation at the scene as “chaotic.”
“People were at loss, they didn’t know what to do,” the correspondent said. “Authorities aren’t telling people anything.”
The correspondents said that a lack of information has led to unsubstantiated rumors of an imminent earthquake and floods, sparking more panic among the people.
There were also reports of looting in shops and people’s homes amid the chaos.
“In Turkmenabat, the dome of the local Ruhyet Palace was destroyed by the windstorms and several schools and kindergarten buildings were left without roofs,” Turkmen.news reported.
“Amid the crisis, some private traders raised the price of food supplies,” it added.
Turkmen authorities’ clampdown on media and free speech makes it difficult to get information about the extent of the damage in Lebap and other parts of Turkmenistan.
The rains and windstorms also affected neighboring Uzbekistan’s Bukhara, Navoyi, Samarkand, and Qashqadaryo provinces.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev visited Bukhara, the most-affected region, on April 29.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.