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Vera Shcherbina: "After the cyclones, we identified a weak link, this is the power industry"

Vera Shcherbina, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Sakhalin Region, spoke about how the consequences of the disaster are being resolved, and what tasks the new government is setting for itself - in an interview with East Russia.

The Sakhalin region in early October was at the mercy of two powerful cyclones, which brought hurricane wind and downpours. On the islands, the hurricane broke trees, knocked down power transmission poles, overturned cars. The downpours have washed away roads, overflowing the banks of the river flooded houses and household plots. These difficult tests befell the team of the new governor of the region, Oleg Kozhemyako. The East Russia correspondent talked about eliminating the consequences of the disaster with Vera Shcherbina, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Sakhalin Region.
She was appointed to this position at the end of September 2015. Previously, she held the post of First Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Amur Region, Minister of Finance of this region.

Vera Shcherbina:
- Vera Georgievna, having taken up your duties in a new position, you immediately faced a difficult situation to eliminate the consequences of powerful cyclones on Sakhalin. Could you tell us what the scale of the disaster was? What resources - organizational and material - did the restoration measures require?

“We had to eliminate the consequences of two cyclones, which came one after another with an interval of several days. The damage assessment has not yet been completed, since applications are still received from both citizens and legal entities. Preliminary damage assessment - over 500 million rubles. The roofs of the houses suffered the most. The wind damaged them in 1119 apartment buildings. Total area - 152 thousand sq. m. Of course, the degree of damage is different. There are minor, there are also significant, when half of the roof area of ​​the house or even more suffered.

In addition, the second cyclone caused us to flood 98 houses due to a sharp rise in the water level in the rivers. 31 of them were heavily flooded, in some places the water reached the windows. These are mainly private houses, where property was also damaged: in some places birds, livestock died, hay and coal were carried away.

- What steps have already been taken and what remains to be done to normalize the life of Sakhalin and Kuril residents? Are there people left homeless? Will they be helped, given that winter is coming very soon?

- Work to eliminate the consequences of the disaster with the involvement of the forces and means of the Russian Emergencies Ministry is going on actively. All damaged roofs of houses were closed under a temporary scheme. The permanent roofing is being restored. 404 houses have already been renovated. These are the buildings where the destruction was minor, and where building material was at hand. Some of the older houses had roofs covered with slate, and supplies on the island were insufficient. Had to order this stuff from suppliers on the mainland. The slate is on its way now, so the work continues.

Governor Oleg Kozhemyako set the task to eliminate all damage within a month. We try, the teams are working, everything is under control. We regularly conduct video-conference operational meetings with the heads of municipalities. They report on the progress of work and what help they need, we, in turn, respond quickly. We provide them with material, labor and financial resources. We have already issued RUB 119 million as budget loans. All who said they needed help were promptly funded.

All flooded houses have been dried with heat guns. This work was carried out by the regional fire services together with local authorities. Seven families from dilapidated flooded houses were relocated. We are solving the question of how to provide them with permanent housing.

All residents of the region, whose houses were flooded, receive compensation from the regional budget. If the water in the house rose by 50 cm or more, we issue financial assistance for major repairs in the amount of 5 thousand rubles per 1 sq. m. We also pay socially unprotected citizens one-time financial assistance.

In addition, we have formed teams that will carry out routine repairs in the damaged homes for single mothers with children, pensioners who do not have money for repairs. If citizens want to repair their houses themselves, we help them with material resources.

- How is the damage done to the agriculture of the region assessed? What will be done to minimize this damage?

- According to preliminary estimates, the damage caused to the agro-industrial complex of the region amounted to 48 million rubles. Basically, these are the roofs of cowsheds, vegetable stores, greenhouses, etc. torn off by a hurricane. Enterprises are now preparing documents for assistance. But here we are acting with reservations. So that no one overestimates the amount of damage, we demand that all data on the amount of damage be certified by representatives of local authorities and the public.

It is assumed that we will provide material assistance from the regional budget of SEC Sokolovsky, Zarechnoye Sovkhoz CJSC, Krasnogorskaya Zaimka CJSC and Komsomolets Sovkhoz JSC. But at the same time, we raise the question that these enterprises and all legal entities in the region should take care of insuring their property. This position is supported by the federal budget, it is ready to compensate for half of the costs of insurance of agricultural enterprises. We are ready to support a number of enterprises and contribute a share of regional funds. This will allow us to save the region's funds in emergency situations if an insured event occurs.
Owners of private farmsteads, where livestock died, forage and coal were lost, we will compensate for the damage in kind. For children, including schoolchildren, whose clothes and shoes drowned during the flood, the regional education ministry has drawn up packages of necessary assistance. These include clothing, textbooks, stationery. The regional Ministry of Social Protection has been instructed to once again examine families with children who have suffered from flooding in order to see if they need any more help.

- During your work in an emergency situation, did you feel that the regional government acts as a single cohesive team or has yet to unite and set it up?

- In an emergency, when there is a threat to the life of entire settlements and individual citizens, we always mobilize, since everything needs to be done quickly. Of course, there were also glitches. But in general, we worked as a close-knit team, all problems were solved by joint efforts.
I would like to note the active work of the employees of the administration of the Dolinsky urban district. During the first three days after the cyclone, they completed a survey of flooded houses, began to pay compensation to citizens, provide them with fuel, animal feed and everything else. Also, the city administration of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk responds promptly: on the first day after the hurricane, all roads and driveways were cleared of tree debris. We worked promptly with citizens whose property was damaged during cyclones. The scale of the destructive consequences of the cyclone near Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was the largest, a lot of roofs of houses were damaged here.

- Considering the fact that the Sakhalin Oblast is generally subject to all sorts of natural disasters, what lessons did the recently formed government of the Sakhalin Oblast learn for itself?
 
- This is an important question. Yes, indeed, not in everything we were ready for the coming disaster. Somewhere there was a lack of technology, people. Now we are starting to form inter-municipal rapid response teams. Their task is to ensure the supply of electricity to the population as quickly as possible in the event of a disaster. We are not going to specifically create any new budgetary institutions, we will rely on our strength - municipal and regional enterprises and institutions that we can mobilize in such situations. For these groups, tasks should be clearly defined - who is acting in what direction, where and what equipment, human and material resources should be mobilized. That is, on the first call, people will be equipped and sent on business trips to clear cutting areas, repair power lines, and so on. We will acquire additional equipment both for clearing snow from settlements and for other purposes. The Governor has set this task for us.

Cyclones have identified a weak link in the life support system. This is the power industry. Suffice it to say that after the first cyclone, more than half of Sakhalin's population was left without electricity. A significant part of the people sat without electricity for several days. The fact that the networks are dilapidated played a role. And the wind turned out to be so strong that the supports fell along with the trees. There were just huge heaps of trees, poles and broken wires in the woodlands. Because of this, the repair teams could not quickly restore the power supply. With the help of helicopters, we found more and more rubble.

To ensure the safety of the electric power industry, a whole range of measures is required. From the use of insulated self-supporting wire on power lines and special supports that can withstand such weather surprises, to the technology for responding to such incidents. While these measures are under discussion and design.

There are ideas to go to the central authorities and try to get into federal programs. Cyclones on Sakhalin and the Kuriles are a constant phenomenon. They can be even stronger, they can cause wider damage, when it becomes even more difficult for us to establish the life support system.

It is impossible to cope quickly with the task of increasing the reliability of power supply. This is a challenge for the years to come. We need to see from what sources we can get serious investments in the electric power industry so that the lights in the houses of the region's residents are not extinguished at every cyclone.

- What are the priority tasks facing the regional government in the very near future as a whole, and before the economic bloc, in particular?

- Governor Oleg Kozhemyako set huge tasks for us. Today the region lives and develops thanks to resource payments. But in the current difficult political and economic situation in the country and in the world, the dollar exchange rate and oil prices are not stable. All this leaves an imprint on the regional budget. Payments are very irregular. Today there is a lot of income, tomorrow - little due to objective economic reasons. Therefore, we cannot rely only on resource payments and must rely on other sectors of the economy as well.

The Governor set before us the task of developing tourism in the region. This is, first of all, a completely different approach to existing projects, which have already proven themselves well. For example, the Mountain Air sports and tourist ski complex in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Investments are needed for the complex to provide high quality services. We are going to create a regional tourism agency and attract specialists who have already worked on such projects, for example, in Sochi. They must prepare a concept for the development of the tourism industry so that we can attract domestic and foreign tourists to the region.

The next block of questions is agriculture. The development of the agro-industrial complex is a matter of food security in the Sakhalin Oblast. The region is completely insular and only 8% provides itself with its own food. We associate the development of the agro-industrial complex with the creation of large modern production facilities for pork, beef, milk and dairy products. We will build elevators in order to reduce the cost of producing compound feed using imported raw materials. The specialists themselves will develop the compound feed formulation and create a feed base here. These are large-scale projects. Now consultations are underway with specialists who have experience in implementing such projects in other constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
There is a need to reform transport. For the railway we are going to purchase modern diesel locomotives. They are the most economical. We will use them on the most popular lines.
 
And finally, the most important area that worries the region's population is housing. Most often, it was on this topic that the inhabitants of the islands asked questions during the election campaign of Oleg Kozhemyako. We know how expensive new housing is here, and besides, the volume of new construction is small. Therefore, we will launch several regional programs: to reduce the cost of mortgage lending, to build social free housing for certain categories of citizens, these are large families, disabled people and so on. We are also developing a program for state employees.

We are going to introduce rental housing. This experience has been applied in several regions of Russia: Novosibirsk, Kaluga, in the Amur Region. Rental housing can be provided to specialists who need to be attracted from other regions of the country. They will pay for utilities and rent. Moreover, enterprises that need specialists can subsidize rent for them. We plan to provide in the future with the opportunity to buy this housing on preferential terms.

Another question that residents of the region asked the governor most often was about the condition of the roads. We plan to spend large sums of money on their construction. But at the same time, we set a task for designers and contractors - it is necessary to reduce the cost of all construction and repair road works without compromising quality. This will enable us to commission more modern roads with the same financial resources.

We are going to create priority development territories. One of them can be the sports and tourist complex "Mountain Air", which we have already discussed, as well as agricultural production. This is a promising topic. We will look for investors who are ready to invest their funds on the islands.

- What, in your opinion, are the most significant differences and similarities between work in the Amur Region and on Sakhalin?

- I don't see any difference in managerial approaches. Sakhalin and Amur regions are two constituent entities of the Russian Federation, in which the same management system is built. There are quite a few highly qualified specialists working on Sakhalin. We immediately found a common language and understand each other.
Of course, the Sakhalin Oblast has a completely different budget and completely different income opportunities. Thanks to them, the region may not survive, but develop. This, of course, needs to be used so that the population can see and feel that the regional economy is developing, that social issues are being addressed, and conditions for comfortable living are created. The climate is good here, the nature is very beautiful, the views are like in Austria. You just need to clean something somewhere, remove the ruins, ruins. This is what we will do.
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