A conspiracy theory has been circulating through the social networks about prior warning on landslide during the Shovi tragedy. In particular, the post reads: “Kakha Kaladze’s family escaped a few hours before the natural disaster. It is undoubted that relevant services had warned them in advance about the imminent danger. There is no doubt about that and it is comforting that they escaped. However, it is surprising to me why did not they inform about that common vacationers.”

In the context of the Shovi disaster, it was also reported about the Mayor of Tbilisi that his family left Shovi by helicopter. This information was voiced by one of the victims on TV Pirveli, which was followed by comments from politicians and Facebook accounts.

In fact, advance information about the landslide could not have been disseminated because there are no monitoring and early notification systems at the disaster site. At the same time, as it turns out, Kakha Kaladze’s family left the hotel not by helicopter, but by cars.

On 3 August 2023, a landslide occurred in Show resort, which, as of 9 August 2023 data, killed 20 people. Soon after the natural disaster, posts aiming to discredit the leaders of Georgian Dream, including Kakha Kaladze, were disseminated in the social network, (see FactCheck’s articles 1 and 2 for additional information).

Claim 1: The Mayor of Tbilisi was warned in advance about the landslide

In fact, there are no early warning systems in that area that would allow us to forecast the disaster. Lasha Sukhishvili, hydrologist and assistant professor of Ilia University, in his interview with Voice of America commented on this issue: "The signalling system is a post factum mechanism... if a flood centre formed in the upper part of the valley and started to move towards the inhabited area, then it is possible before this flow will reach the settlement, the signal will be transmitted online, and the population will know in advance that there is a danger."

Lasha Sukhishvili also explained that the agency has installed the so-called security radars on the Devdorak-Amal glacier and in the Vere river valley, although they are still not in proper working order.

Environmental activist and professor of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) Kakha Artsividze told Voice of America that the claim that it was impossible to avoid disasters is wrong, because "countries that have early warning systems and higher research figures are always better prepared and insure themselves from such tragedies.”

For instance, southern Austria, where monitoring systems are in place, has recently been severely damaged by torrential rains, mudslides and overflowing rivers. The country's geological survey warned residents of villages in the south of the country about the impending danger and later moved them to safer places. Since there are many landslide-prone areas in Austria, during heavy rainfall, meteorologists always monitor the areas where danger is expected, and the residents are notified through a special warning system, "KATWARN". More than 8,000 sirens are also installed across the country, which warn the population during emergency situations.

The Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, Otar Shamugia, stated a few days ago: “Very soon, the country will be fully covered by monitoring systems. We will have full information and early warning systems will be installed will be installed in the most critical areas in line with the assessments from experts.

According to the Minister of Agriculture the restoration of the monitoring system in the country began in 2014: "We started the process in 2014 and during the last years, including with the help of donors, we have been installing meteorological and hydro-meteorological stations, two new, completely modern radars have been installed in Western and Eastern Georgia. This happened last year and the year before as well as more than 200 hydrometeorological stations have been installed in recent years and this process is actively in progress. Of course, we will bring these processes to the end. As for early warning systems, this is a step that need to be taken afterwards, along with the assessments made by specialists."

According to Otar Shamugia, the events of Shovi were so immediate that it could not have been avoided, as the natural processes that caused the flood developed within 8-10 minutes.

For information, regarding this topic, on 6 August 2023, the preliminary assessment on "Natural Disaster Unfolding on 3 August 2023 in the riv. Bubistskali valley (Chanchakhi river basin)" was published. The so-called preliminary conclusion reads:

“On 3 August 2023, there was a combination of geological and hydrometeorological disasters (intense melting of the glacier, heavy rainfall, rock avalanches in the headwaters, landslide-erosive processes and the movement of mudslides) in the Bubistskali valley, which led to the formation of an extreme mudflow. On the basis of the field research carried out in the valley, it was determined that west of the Buba glacier, there was a collapse of a rocky mass, which, after coming into motion, collided with the glacier, caused the collapse of a certain part of it, which may have caused the overflow of the waters buried under the glacier, after which the resulting flow began to move at a high speed in the bed of the valley.”

This conclusion is not final and studying the landslide reasons is still underway.

Claim N2: Kakha Kaladze’s family left Shovi by a helicopter.

The fact that Kakha Kaladze’s family left the hotel by helicopter is also disinformation. The rapid dissemination of information on the mentioned topic followed the statement of Kakha Okriashvili, leader of the "Progress and Freedom" political party. According to Mr Okriashvili, "if it is proven that Kaladze took the family members out of Shovi by government-owned helicopter shortly before the disaster, he should be imprisoned."

The Mayor of Tbilisi held a briefing to respond these reports, where he made the following statement:

"My three underage children vacationed for two weeks in Shovi. Before the disaster, my children left the area with my cars, and within a few hours the disaster that we are facing today started. Those speculations that take place on purpose and are going on purposely, I would like to refer specifically to TV Pirveli, you are simply shameful when you spread such speculations against the backdrop of such a tragedy, such a disaster. You are talking to a person, a lady who is facing the greatest tragedy, who is looking for her family, and you are speculating that my kids used a helicopter to leave the area. First, let's start by saying that I am grateful to God for saving my children, let's say if my children were there, should they be abandoned during the rescue operation, shouldn't they have been put in the helicopter?!”

For information, Kakha Kaladze's criticism of TV Pirveli was caused by the airing of the interview of Marita Gutashvili, one of the victims.

In particular, Marita Gutashvili said: "I have information that the wife and children of Kakha Kaladze were here. Apparently, they saw that there were people there and took them out first. They spent the time for people who were at peace and facing no danger to be evacuated. Our government is incapable to do anything and they will sacrifice us all.”

TV "Imedi" also obtained footage, where it is clearly seen that Kakha Kaladze’s family members are leaving the territory of the "Sunset Shovi" hotel by cars at 14:09.

Therefore, a claim that somebody could have been warned in advance about landslide in Shovi is false. At the same time, it is proved by the footage that Kakha Kaladze’s family did not use a helicopter to leave Shovi.


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