At least 171 people have been killed in a devastating flood in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region. It's the worst of its kind in nearly a century, and the death toll continues to rise.
Some 584 people, 83 children among them, have sought medical aid following the flood. Medics have hospitalized 159 people, including sixteen children. Almost 3,000 people have been evacuated from the disaster area, while 17 people have officially been reported as missing.
Almost 35,000 people have been affected by the disaster. A state of emergency has been declared in the cities of Krymsk, Novorossiysk, and Gelendzhik. In total 159 bodies have been recovered so far in Krymsk, ten in Gelendzhik and two in Novorossiysk.
The head of the Russia’s Emergency Ministry has acknowledged that the flood hazard alarm system did not function properly in Krymsk.“According to preliminary estimates, the population was notified, but not in a sufficiently thorough way,”
the head of EMERCOM Vladimir Puchkov said.
The flood was part of the aftermath of a giant storm that hit Krasnodar, dropping almost half a year’s rainfall on the region over two days. The weather forecast promises more heavy rains and squally wind to hit the region by night.
The most heavily affected areas are along the Russian Black Sea coast, which bore the brunt of the deluge as it rushed out to sea.
A day of mourning will be held across Russia on July 9 to commemorate the victims of the flood.
Krymsk has been affected worst of all as the deluge engulfed it overnight, tearing through the city and leaving a trail of desolation in its wake. Witnesses reported buildings destroyed and trucks and other vehicles being overturned.
One driver said his truck was literally carried tens of meters by the deluge. In a separate incident, a ten-year-old girl was ripped from her mother and sister’s arms by the force of the current.
“This is not just rain or a downpour, this is a catastrophe. There was a wall of water, it was difficult to breath,” wrote an eyewitness on a social networking site.
People desperately tried to escape the advancing deluge, fleeing to higher ground and taking refuge on the roofs of buildings.
In the city of Gelendzhik, workers at a kindergarten managed to get children onto the second floor of the building just in time before the waters hit. While one woman in Krymsk reportedly spent six hours on top of a gas oven to escape the rising waters.
Five people in Gelendzhik were electrocuted to death after a wire fell into the water. A man trying to cross a puddle next to a store on Kerchenskaya Street was the first to receive fatal injuries. Two women and another man rushed to help him, but were also killed by the electric current. A third man later approached the four bodies, and was himself electrocuted to death, his body carried away by the oncoming flood waters.
Local authorities say a large part of the casualties were pensioners unable to escape from their homes when the floodwaters struck.
The Governor of the Krasnodar region Aleksandr Tkachyov surveyed the damage in the Gelendzhik and Krymsky districts from a helicopter as early as Saturday morning in order to estimate repairs, sending updates on the situation via Twitter.
“The scale of it is spectacular, to be sure, and very tragic. The water came with such force that it tore up the asphalt,” the governor wrote on Saturday.
Locals say that sewage systems are down and phone networks in the region are working intermittently.
Fourteen temporary shelters have been set up in Krymsk to house around 2,000 people, who “are receiving food, drinking water and medicine,” Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said. She added that a special team had been deployed in the area to attend to the needs of the evacuated.
Emergencies Ministry rescue teams and helicopters have been dispatched to the Krasnodar Region in order to join the rescue and repair efforts already underway there. Over 10,000 rescue officers and 140 helicopters are currently working at the scene.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin as well as Emergency Minister Vladimir Puchkov and the Minister of Regional Development Oleg Govorun have visited the affected area.
Furthermore, Russia’s Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova arrived on Sunday in the Krasnodar Region, and has reported 210 people have been hospitalized, while the number of missing has risen to 17.
The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe into the tragedy on the grounds of negligence.
Authorities in the Perm region of Russia dispatched their own rescue team to evacuate dozens of children who were at local summer camps as the storms hit.
Vice PM Olga Golodets proposed the evacuation of four children’s summer camps in order to bring the situation under control.
“The children have no contact with the Ministry of Emergencies or the local authorities in Gelendzhik. For two days now they have been without supplies and electricity,” Governor of the Perm Region Viktor Basargin said on Saturday.
“We have decided to take action on the issue of their evacuation,” he continued.
So far, 84 children have returned home. Some 114 more are said to be in an area unaffected by the disaster, so the supervisors of their camp decided the kids could continue their holiday.
There is growing concern over the tourist population in the area. The area is popular with campers and tourists for its proximity to the Black Sea. This year alone 7,130 Russian children went camping in the surrounding territory, Russian Vice-premier Olga Golodetz announced in the wake of the disaster.
However, Governor Tkachyov emphasized that the all the camp grounds in the area appear to be safe:
“Practically all the campgrounds are in normal condition, nothing is threatening the lives of the children.”
The only campground that has suffered as a result of the flooding was the “Azure Shore” campsite, which was without power.
Tkachyov, nevertheless supported Basargin’s decision to evacuate the children.
Photos show the extent of the devastation caused by the flood waters, see more in RT's photo gallery.