Passengers helicoptered as landslide blocks Georgia-Russia road

  • A screenshot from the Georgian Interior Ministry's video footage., 26 Jun 2016 - 12:37, Tbilisi,Georgia

People wanting to go to Russia from Georgia are being helicoptered to the border by Georgian police after a landslide blocked the only road linking the two countries.

A one kilometre section of the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi Rd (Georgian Military Highway) that links Georgia and Russia remains closed following the June 23 landslide in northern Georgia’s Devdoraki Gorge. The natural disaster meant a checkpoint at the Georgia-Russia border cannot be reached by road transport.

Today Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said the agency's own helicopters were being used to airlift passengers over the blocked area and get them to the checkpoint.

Up to 60 people were transported via helicopter from Stepantsminda to the Dariali Gorge, from where they were escorted by police to the Larsi checkpoint at the border with Russia.

Georgia’s Road Department said all vehicles were banned from moving along the 134-135km section of the Military Highway, as it had been completely destroyed by the landslide.

Geologists suggested recent heavy rains caused a solid mass of land that had settled in Devdoraki River following a major landslide in 2014 to become unstable and start moving. The moving land mass reached the area where Devdoraki River joined Tergi River, and subsequently blocked the river in the evening of June 23.

This caused Tergi River to swell, and forge a new route however this raging water completely swept away an 800m section of the road near the Devdoraki glacier.