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Olympic host city Sochi declares State of Emergency due to flooding

Friday, September 27, 2013, 8:06 PM - Flooding, mudslides, and a reported tornado have forced Russian authorities this week to initiate a state of emergency in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The 2014 Winter Olympics are rapidly approaching but this week construction efforts were hampered by major storms around Russia's Black Sea coast. 

As much as three months worth of rain fell in just three days, causing the Mzymta River to burst its banks. 

Flood waters knee-high were reported across Sochi's city centre, causing long traffic jams and closing schools and businesses. 

One highway - which would be used to travel to Alpine event venues - was flooded by up to 2.5 metres of water. 

The inundated highway also prompted evacuation orders for the village of Kepsha - north of Sochi - due to mudslides. 

Much of the city, including the Olympic Village, resembled a swamp of mud and debris as work continued on venues and other infrastructure. 

On Wednesday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said approximately 1,800 personnel were involved in clean-up efforts, including pumping water. 

Water levels did begin to recede by Thursday morning but conditions could change with more rain foretasted this weekend. 

Sochi was awarded the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in 2007 and is expected to spend over $50 billion (U.S.) on the event. 

Possible tornado reported 

The active weather is also believed to have generated a tornado in a village near Sochi. 

Wind speeds were reported at just over 100 kilometres an hour, blowing off rooftops and knocking down trees. 

Several power lines were also damaged, leaving some villages without electricity for most of Wednesday. 

No injuries were reported but damage was done to a section of the North-Caucasian railway, delaying trains for a few hours. 

Climate concern 

The selection of Sochi has been criticized by many for its sub-tropical climate. Critics fear Alpine events will be hampered by warm temperatures, much like what Calgary saw with the Chinook winds in 1988. 

In February, average temperatures during the day approach 9 degrees Celsius while at night, they're slightly above 3 degrees. 

Temperatures in the mountains are a bit cooler but could still be problematic. Officials have prepared for the worst possible scenario. 

The Rosa Khutor Resort - where skiing events will be held - has two water reservoirs and 400 snow generators installed along the slopes. 

The area has been used to store snow through the summer, keeping it packed and sealed under a special thermal cover. 

Organizers hope to have around 300,000 cubic metres of snow ready for next year.

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