In the beginning of February Central Heating and Power Plant completely broke down in southern Kentau town, which is situated 180 kilometres away from Shymkent. According to official version, the accident was caused by severe frosts and obsolete equipment. The news about it spread all over the country in an instant, and Emergency Minister Vladimir Bozhko came to Kentau by helicopter. The accident was eliminated, and town akim (mayor) was roundly rebuked. However, after this one accident there were hundreds of others in this town. Galina Ryzhkina and Kanat Beisekeyev went to Kentau after the minister and saw what he had not been shown.
Not only Power Plant appeared to be obsolete in Kentau, but the whole heating system. After heat supply was restored, frozen pipes and radiators literally started to explode.
This is what Kentau heating main looks like. Pipes are situated above the ground, all over the town.
Emergency services appeared to be unprepared to hundreds of urgent calls. In this backyard of this detached house water has been running from a broken pipe for already four days.
Plumbers and welders cite large number of accidents and lack of equipment. It is simply impossible to repair all pipes.
Vinyards and pomegranate trees are covered with sacks, blankets and carpets for winter. However, there will not be any vines at the place where water was running for several days.
In this apartment block water was pouring into the basement for several days.
Plumbers told the residents that they were unable to mend old pipes.
They just cut water supply in the basement and left.
The temperature in 80-year-old Usser Sarbayev's flat has been below +8 degrees for about two weeks. Frosts have abated a bit and the temperature outside is about -15.
Former dentist with 25 years of working experience Aliya Kaldybayeva is cooking a meal wearing a coat. For our team's sake she took off a hat and put on a scarf instead.
Aliya had tuberculosis and cannot find a job now. She has got chronic bronchitis. The woman is afraid to fall ill again because of the cold in her flat.
These days Aliya Kaldybayeva's family lives in one room with an electric heater. They eat and sleep here. 13-year-old Nursultan does his homework here as well.
70-year-old retiree Vladimir Georgiyevich Novokreshchenov suffers from glaucoma and only one of his eyes can see. He says that if it was not for his eyesight he would go to the basement and mend the pipe.
There are a total of 326 apartment blocks and about 1500 detached houses in Kentau.
Both types of houses were left without heating.
Mariya Dzhumanova is an educator in a kindergarten.
Mariya and her husband have been building their house since 2001.
When long-awaited heating was supplied to Mariya's house, all radiators on the second floor exploded. This is what her kitchen on the first floor looks like.
A living room wall crumbled because of the water.
Nobody came to eliminate the emergency. The woman led a vice-akim by hand to her destroyed house.
He promised to compensate for the damage. The family was allowed to live in the house saying that it would not collapse.
There is no electricity in the house now too. Small children were taken by the relatives. 18-year-old Assan stayed at home to help his mother.
Heating was switched on in future architect Bota's building at night, and pipes on the third floor were damaged immediately. Water reached her first floor quite fast.
Plumbers arrived to Bota's apartment three hours after the accident. By that time the ceiling of the student's flat had already collapsed.
80-year-old Lyudmila Georgiyevna Gorbanik says that it is her last winter in Kentau. Former hydrogeologist is waiting for her daughter from Ufa. Then she will leave the town, where she has been living for 50 years, forever. It is too cold here.
The retiree cannot clean her flat. She can barely move. It is her daughter who will have to put the apartment into order when she arrives.
For now Lyudmila Georgiyevna has to live like this. She is all alone.
After radiators broke down in confectioner Urziya's flat, electricity was urgently cut off in the building. Now there is neither heating, nor electricity here.
It is hard to estimate how many families in Kentau suffered because of the frost and then long-awaited heat supply. According to local journalists, there are about 450 of them.
Akimat (town authorities) representatives estimate the damage to victims' houses. However, residents have not been informed about when it will be compensated.
All victims have been promised to be given new radiators.
Up till 2007 Kentau Central Heating and Power Plant was a private property. It was not working and was announced a bankrupt. There has not been central heating in Kentau since Soviet Union times and town residents were waiting for it to be organised. However, after the accident citizens longingly remember the time when heating at their homes did not depend on the government, but on themselves alone and on the volume of prepared coal and on their potbelly stoves...