x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Russian flood victims vent anger

Russian flood victims vented anger at the authorities as they cleared out drenched possessions from their homes following the devastating floods that swept through without warning.

A resident looks at the debris of a house damaged by floods in the town of Krymsk in Krasnodar region, southern Russia.
A resident looks at the debris of a house damaged by floods in the town of Krymsk in Krasnodar region, southern Russia.

KRYMSK, RUSSIA // Mikhail Bogomazov, 83, spent a night perched on piled-up tables as water levels rose to close to the ceiling in his house in a flood-ravaged southern Russian town.

"The day before it rained all day and got stronger by night. There was no alarm and no one warned us, because they didn't know themselves," said Mr Bogomazov, who lives in Krymsk in the southern Krasnodar region, the area worst affected by deadly flash floods over the past few days.

"I think the weather services worked badly," he added about the disaster that has claimed some 150 lives, most of them in Krymsk.

Russian flood victims vented anger at the authorities yesterday as they cleared out drenched possessions from their homes following the devastating floods that swept through without warning.

Water levels had fallen in Krymsk yesterday but there was still up to 50 centimetres in the worst affected streets, with locals wading through the muddy water to their houses.

Residents inspected their homes with brown-stained furniture scattered by the deluge and carried out possessions, trying to dry them as the sun burnt down with steaming heat.

Krymsk with about 57,000 residents lies about 200 kilometres north-west of the Black Sea resort of Sochi where Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Other survivors in Krymsk also complained they did not hear any warnings.

Yet the authorities insisted on Sunday that they did try to warn people.

"It's a lie. We drove round the town, and we ourselves knocked on gates and windows. ... I was on the spot, I was rescuing people the whole time," Krymsk's mayor Vladimir Ulanovsky said in televised comments.

President Vladimir Putin flew down to the region on Saturday evening to personally inspect the damage, demanding to know whether officials had warned residents in advance.

He said grimly that Russia's top investigator would conduct a probe to see "who acted how."

Officials have not been able to explain the massive death toll, saying only that the floods were caused by exceptionally heavy rains.

Speculation swirled that the floods were connected to a nearby reservoir after officials acknowledged there had been "portioned releases of water," while saying they were not significant enough to cause the flooding.

But many were not convinced.

"It always rains here but we've never had this before. A seven-metre tall wave crushed everything," Irina Morgunova said in Krymsk. "That is not rain. But no-one will ever say it out loud."

Mr Bogomazov, who was sheltering yesterday in a kindergarten building after being rescued by police, said he had heard of a seven-metre (yard) wave sweeping into the town from the reservoir.

"It broke through. It's not clear what happened, but a seven-metre wave came down," he said.

The level of the flooding was by far the worst in recent times, he added. "There was a flood in 2004, but that time there was no water in my living room," he said.

His daughter and grandchildren were clearing his house and collecting scattered bricks after flooding caused the hallway to collapse, he said, with water levels still at 30cm in the area.

Volunteers had spontaneously travelled from nearby towns including Pyatigorsk in the North Caucasus to help, bringing water and bread.

"We are digging ourselves out of this on our own. There is no help," complained Ms Morgunova, who had travelled to Krymsk to help her relatives, after their house was destroyed in the flooding.