As the Georgian capital Tbilisi struggles to recover from a calamitous flash flood, a political storm is brewing – one in which incumbent authorities are trying to blame their predecessors for shortcomings exposed by the tragedy.
The June 13-14 flash flood killed 19 people and caused an estimated $45 million in damage.
Roughly a day and a half after the tragedy, prosecutors opened an investigation into the construction of a 4.5-kilometer-long expressway that passes through the Vere River valley, the site of the flood.
Various observers – including Tbilisi Mayor Davit Narmania, a representative of the Georgian Dream coalition which has the upper hand in politics these days – have claimed that the drainage system for the highway, a high-profile project built during former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration, was not equipped to handle possible overflow from the river. Saakashvili now is the governor of the Ukrainian region of Odessa, but his political legacy still looms large over Georgian politics.
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Paul Rimple is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.