President Saakashvili told cabinet members on July 19 that the government should consider providing compensations to those households whose farmlands were destroyed as a result of strong wind and hail in several provinces of Georgia overnight on Thursday.
Billionaire politician Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of opposition Georgian Dream coalition, offered government his contribution to relief efforts, including through providing compensations.
Telavi district of Kakheti region in eastern Georgia was most heavily hit where the strong wind ripped roofs off 770 buildings and houses and hail destroyed 6,800 hectares of farmland, according to government’s preliminary estimations.
Hail also destroyed about 5,400 hectares of farmland in Gurjaani, Kvareli and Lagodekhi districts of the Kakheti region.
Over dozen of people required treatment in the hospital after they sustained no life-threatening injuries. Some of them were injured after walls of some buildings collapsed in Telavi district.
The bad weather has also damaged communication, road, water and electricity supply infrastructure.
The Ministry of Defense said that it had deployed 1,300 reserve troops and an army engineer battalion in Kakheti to help with relief efforts.
Following a request for assistance by the Georgian government, Tbilisi office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that it would provide relief items, including jerry cans, folding beds, mattresses, blankets and pillows, bed sheet sets and tents, to about 300 persons affected by the heavy rains in Telavi.
Strong hail also damaged farmlands in several districts of Samtskhe-Javakheti region, including in Aspindza, Adigeni, Vale and Akhaltsikhe. Bad weather caused power outages in Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Kvemo Kartli regions.
President Saakashvili, PM Vano Merabishvili and the entire cabinet visited the Kakheti region and held an emergency government meeting in Telavi on July 19.
PM Merabishvili, who is in charge of relief efforts, vowed that houses with damaged roofs would be repaired within a week.
President Saakashvili told government members that “all the damaged houses should be restored” and the government should also study possibility of providing compensations to those whose farmlands were destroyed.
“We should consider the issue of compensations,” he said and added that he would request the Parliament to hold an extraordinary session to discuss allocation of funds “to help the people.”
Also on July 19, the Georgian Dream opposition coalition, led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, said that its leader was ready to cooperate with the authorities in order to provide his assistance.
“Mr. Ivanishvili and the coalition are ready to provide any possible assistance whether it is hospital treatment [of injured individuals] or compensations for [destroyed farmlands],” Maia Panjikidze, a spokesperson for the Georgian Dream said, but also added that “unfortunately existing legislature no longer allows Bidzina Ivanishvili to carry out charitable activities.”
She said that the Georgian Dream was ready to cooperate with the government and “if the authorities show us legal ways how we can be involved, we are ready to participate” in relief efforts.
Asked about Ivanishvili’s offer, Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze told journalists: “Of course I cannot make a political comment on that. We’ve heard for number of times from Mr. Ivanishvili that [PM] Vano Merabishvili is a very good manager, so he can get in touch with Mr. Merabishvili and they can agree if there is any framework through which Mr. Ivanishvili can participate in the work of headquarters [set up by the government to coordinate relief efforts].”
“By the way, such headquarters in general are established with participation of government ministers, but I am sure, Vano [Merabishvili] is such a good manager that in case of willingness they [Merabishvili and Ivanishvili] will manage to agree on something,” Bakradze added.