Putin orders flood probe

moscow — President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation into accusations that officials could have done more to prevent floods killing at least 170 people in southern Russia, hoping to limit the criticism that has followed earlier disasters.

Putin moved quickly to visit Krymsk – the worst-hit town – on Saturday and promised compensation for victims the day after water rose above head-height in some houses and turned streets into raging torrents.

Yesterday, residents tried to salvage what they could from the ruins of their homes in Krymsk, a town of 57,000 nestling in the wooded mountains of the Krasnodar region on the Black Sea which has thriving agriculture and tourism industries.

“We were lying there asleep when the water came out of nowhere at 2 a.m., and right away it was knee-deep,” said Vitaly Berezhnoi, a cement worker who turned 35 on Sunday.

“We barely managed to pull the children out. The dogs drowned. All our documents were lost – the car registration, work records, my army draft card.”

Residents remained without power, gas or drinking water almost 48 hours after the torrential rain struck on Friday night and the Health Ministry, fearing infection from a cemetery eroded by floodwaters, had begun vaccinating residents.

Utility poles toppled by the floodwaters lay about near a crumpled transformer in the centre of the town.

Most passenger rail traffic resumed in the region yesterday and Russia’s biggest port, Novorossiisk, a major outlet for crude oil from the world’s largest producer, resumed normal operations, an official at the port operator said.

Novorossiisk is also a major outlet for wheat from Russia, the world’s second largest exporter this past year. The official said Novorossiisk Grain Terminal was ready to resume exports, though none were scheduled. (Reuters)

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