News24

Putin orders probe into floods

2012-07-08 21:57

Krymsk - Russia's President Vladimir Putin moved quickly to address anger over the deaths of at least 153 people in severe flooding in the Black Sea region that turned streets into swirling muddy rivers and inundated thousands of homes as many residents were sleeping.

Putin, who was criticised in past years for a delayed or seemingly indifferent response to disasters, flew to the region in southern Russia committed to showing he was taking charge of the situation.

He ordered the head of Russia's investigative agency to establish whether enough had been done to warn people about the floods.

Federal prosecutors also said they were investigating whether the population had been properly protected from "natural and technological catastrophes."

Russia has seen a series of natural and man-made disasters in recent years, many of them blamed on aging infrastructure or lax safety rules.

Torrential rains dropped up to a metre of water in less than 24 hours, which the state meteorological service said was five times the monthly average.

The water rushed into the hard-hit town of Krymsk early on Saturday with such speed and volume that residents said they suspected that water had been intentionally released from a reservoir in the mountains above.

Local officials denied this, saying it was not technically possible to open the sluices.

Federal investigators, however, acknowledged on Sunday that water had been released naturally from the reservoir, but they insisted it did not cause the flooding and the dam had not been breached.

They said the problem was the heavy and sudden rainfall.

Krymsk received a total of about 221mm of rain overnight, but 50mm of that came in less than an hour late on Friday, the meteorological service said.

Even heavier rain fell in Gelendzhik, a popular seaside vacation spot about 200km up the coast from Sochi, where preparations are under way for the 2014 Winter Olympics.