The devastating waters caught most of Krymsk by surprise, with the southern Russian town suffering the brunt of the death and destruction. Cars and buildings were swept away by the deluge as the nearby Adagum River turned into a roaring nightmare.
The streets of Krymsk are now mostly deserted. The town looks like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie, RT’s Denis Bolotsky reports from the scene.
Over 170 people lost their lives after the entire city was completely submerged by flood waters on Saturday. But the death toll is likely to rise as rescuers reportedly continue to recover bodies.
Russia’s Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova arrived on Sunday in the Krasnodar region. Assessing the full impact of the tragedy and the current situation in the shelters housing evacuees from the flood zone, she reported 584 individuals have reported for medical assistance, including 83 children. She also reported 210 people had been hospitalized, and the number of missing had risen to 17.
The flood water came extremely quickly and with immense force. Many of the dead are reportedly pensioners who were asleep when the flood struck and unable to escape in time.
The town's emergency ward was also hit. Local doctors, barely escaping death, continued working. Two out of six ambulances were destroyed instantaneously. Doctors and drivers, however, managed to get other vehicles out of the garage to help people.
Hours after the devastating flood hit their houses, local residents are still in shock.
“People came in under a lot of stress,” local medics say. “They have lost their houses, their relatives and loved ones. It was painful to look at the elderly.”
A school bus was caught by a deadly stream, but the driver managed to call the emergency crews and help to get the children out of the bus. July is a month of school holidays, and in Russia's south, thousands of children take excursions out of town.
“We were standing at the traffic light when the water hit. I backed up, and called the emergency services,” the driver said. “They came in about ten minutes and started taking the children out of the bus through the window.”
RT's Tom Barton has visited Krymsk and talked to the survivors of the disaster. Watch his report:
Eyewitnesses claim a seven-meter wave struck Krymsk in the middle of the night. The wave came down from the mountains, they say. Authorities maintain there was no such wave, but rather massive streams of water which submerged the ground floors of houses in a matter of minutes.
Anna Kovalyovskaya, whose parents are currently in the flood zone, says that local residents are expressing doubts that such devastation could have been caused by rain storms alone.
“I don’t know if this is official information or not, but in the city they are saying that they opened the water reservoir in the mountains above the city. That’s where the wave came from. In the city all of a sudden there was seven meters of water. There was certainly a large storm beforehand, but the water came on so quick that in 15 minutes, everything was flooded,” Kovalyovskaya told the Russian News Service.
The rumors of local water reservoirs having been drained to add to Krymsk’s woes were bitterly brushed aside by the reservoir staff. The basin, located deep in the mountains, secured the town from total immersion, it appears.
A single massive draining could have never taken place, since the reservoir is not designed this way, says the Neberdzhaevsky reservoir press service. The emergency discharge of the reservoir is of a glory-hole spillway design, which prevents any considerable quantity of water from being released.
Moreover, “Krymsk was flooded much earlier than the reservoir started draining excessive water,” the reservoir press service told RIA Novosti.
Waters levels in the reservoir jumped from 3 million to 8 million cubic meters overnight, so the storage worked as a “safety bag” for the city, securing it from an even worse flood, the press service says.
The Investigative Committee does not take the theory of possible water discharge from the Neberdzhaevsky reservoir as the primary cause of the deluge either.
“The investigation has found that the discharge of water was carried out in a normal fashion, the reservoir was not overflown… No mass discharge has been registered,” Investigative Committee spokesperson Vladimir Markin said.
“Believe me the dam of the reservoir remains intact. Nothing left the reservoir, that (water) came from the mountains,” stressed the vice-governor of the Kuban region Jambulat Khatuov.
No damage to the dam was discovered as an Emergency Ministry chief inspected it from a helicopter. Later, a group of five locals and a TV crew was taken for a similar flight; their trip revealed the dam emerged whole from the rains.
Local authorities insist that the true reason for the flood was the record level of precipitation in the region.
Flood waters have already receded in Krymsk, but part of the town is still submerged. On Saturday alone rescuers retrieved over 6,000 survivors from rooftops and trees. Some 940 people with 51 children among them are being housed in 14 shelters, but thousands of others have returned to the care of their families after receiving aid in rescue centers.
Even though the power supply has not yet been fixed, local authorities are certain that they will be able to restore the grid in a couple of days.
Dozens of volunteers are giving away food and clothes. All survivors are being registered, and will be given compensation for their houses and lost belongings.
Meanwhile, the rescue operation continues with over 10,000 emergency workers deployed in the flooded region. Rescuers are still hoping to find and help more survivors.
Some of the rescue efforts took a valorous turn with a policeman dying while bringing people caught on rooftops and trees to safety. The last people rescued by Lt. Col. Vyacheslav Gorbunov were two children. He drowned trying to reach their relatives.
Police patrolling of Krymsk was intensified at nightfall due to fears of looting, an Interior Ministry statement said. Several looters have already been detained.
Photos show the extent of the devastation caused by the flood waters, see more in RT's photo gallery.