June 5, 2007 in Nation/World

Landslide plugs Russian geysers

Jim Heintz Associated Press

MOSCOW – A severe landslide has nearly obliterated one of Russia’s most noted natural wonders, the Valley of Geysers, officials and environmental activists said Monday.

The valley in the Kronotsky national reserve on the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula contained about 90 geysers, as well as an array of thermal pools, and is the region’s most popular tourist attraction.

A snow-covered mound collapsed Sunday “within seconds” and caused a massive landslide, about a mile long and 600 feet wide, burying two-thirds of the valley, park ranger Valery Tsypkov said in televised remarks.

The landslide dumped millions of cubic yards of mud and stones and destroyed most of the valley’s geysers and dozens of thermal springs, stopping yards away from the valley’s only hotel, he said.

Tourists and park personnel had to be evacuated, but no injuries were reported.

Some officials were hopeful about the valley’s future.

The natural dam created by the landslide will turn the valley – which was discovered only in 1941 – into a thermal lake that could become a new “tourist jewel of Russia,” tourism official Denis Lazarev said, according to Russian news agencies.

“This is tragic for humankind, in that we have lost one of the great natural wonders of the world,” Laura Williams of the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement posted on the group’s Web site.

“But for nature, this is only a blip in the history of the planet’s evolution.”

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