Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Putin orders probe as floods kill 171

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KRYMSK, Russia -- Russia's president quickly moved to address anger over the deaths of at least 171 people in severe flooding in the Black Sea region that turned streets into swirling muddy rivers and inundated thousands of homes as residents were sleeping.

Vladimir Putin, criticized in past years for a delayed or seemingly indifferent response to disasters, flew to the region in southern Russia to show 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.

Torrential rains dropped up to a foot 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 Saturday with such speed and volume that residents said they suspected 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.

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

Workers and volunteers scrambled to distribute food, drinking water and clean clothes throughout Krymsk, since much of the city of 57,000 was without electricity and potable water.

The Interior Ministry said 171 bodies had been recovered, 159 of them in and around Krymsk.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2012 A9

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