Snow melt leads to major flooding in Latvian city of Jekabpils

Flooding in Jekapils, Latvia, Thursday, January 12, 2023.
Flooding in Jekapils, Latvia, Thursday, January 12, 2023. Source: ERR

Flooding in south-central Latvia has exceeded records and have led to preparations for mass evacuations, that country's public broadcaster, LSM, reports, less than a fortnight after Estonia's southern neighbor was hit by similarly severe floods.

A combination of heavy rain and a thaw arising from the unusually mild winter has led to the Daugava River to rise to its highest level in 40 years as of Friday, LSM reports on its English-language page, with the city of Jekabpils seeing school closures, public transport service cuts and road restrictions, while a large-scale evacuation is not out of the question.

A third-level (of three) meteorological warning has been issued in the Jekabpils district, while flood risk on the Daugava and Latvia's other major rivers may last through to spring.

Much of the focus is on a protective embankment. Should that levee not hold, the situation would turn out worse than it already is in Jekabpils, where flooding has already hit basements in some cases, and downstream in nearby Plavinas.

Rescue services in Latvia said local residents in affected zones should evacuate in good time, switching off the electricity and gas as they go, while drinking water quality should also be monitored.

Local governments are set to provide temporary shelter also.

While levels started to subside on Thursday, they have since risen overnight into Friday.

As of a little before 5.00 a.m., the Daugava had reached the 8.14-meter mark above zero at Jekabils, while local residents told ERR's Latvia correspondent Ragnar Kond that they had not seen water levels this high.

The previous record high was 7.79m.

One resident spoke of a parked car which was almost completely submerged, while pumps set up have been overwhelmed by the volume of meltwater and ice.

The embankment reportedly protects Jekabpils from flooding up to a maximum of 9m above the zero mark.

While the situation remains unpredictable, the weather forecast suggests colder weather next week, which may help with the situation though, since that is forecast to be followed by another thaw, the issue could remain through the rest of winter.

No emergency situation has been declared yet, though authorities have asked the public to stay away from the affected areas if they have no business there, in order not to impede rescuers in their work.

Floods at the beginning of the year in Adaži, near Riga and lying on the Gauja River, also led to evacuations.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: LSM, Aktuaalne kaamera

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