1. ITV Report

Russian President orders inquiry into fatal floods

A traffic sign lays on the ground in a flooded street in the town of Krymsk in Krasnodar region Photo: REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko

Russia's president moved quickly to address anger over the deaths of at least 171 people in severe flooding in the Black Sea region.

Vladimir Putin, who was criticised in the past for a delayed or seemingly indifferent response to disasters, flew to the region in southern Russia committed to showing he was taking charge of the situation.

A local resident passes by a damaged car stuck in a flooded street in the town of Krymsk Credit: REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko

He ordered the head of Russia's investigative agency to establish whether enough had been done to warn people about the floods.

Federal prosecutors also said they were investigating whether the population had been properly protected from "natural and technological catastrophes".

Russia has seen a series of natural and man-made disasters in recent years, many of them blamed on ageing infrastructure or lax safety rules.

The Interior Ministry said today that 171 bodies had been recovered, 159 of them in and around Krymsk and 10 in Gelendzhik, including five who were electrocuted after a transformer fell into the water.

The majority of the dead were elderly who were unable to escape the sudden deluge.

Across the Krasnodar region, more than 5,000 homes were flooded.

Local residents walk along a street damaged by floods in the town of Krymsk Credit: REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko

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 with such speed and volume that residents said they suspected that water had been intentionally released from a reservoir in the mountains above.

Local officials denied this but federal investigators later acknowledged that water had been released naturally from the reservoir, but they insisted it did not cause the flooding and the dam had not been breached.

They said the problem was the heavy and sudden rainfall. Krymsk received a total of almost nine inches of rain overnight.

A boy walks on an uprooted tree in a street hit by floods in the town of Krymsk Credit: REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko

Putin had already sent his emergencies minister on an inspection mission, a further indication of the concern over the condition of the reservoir.

Vladimir Puchkov later reported that he had flown over the dam and seen no evidence of any damage.

Putin, however, did not meet with any residents affected by the floods, perhaps not willing to risk being the target of their anger.

Water streams out of a hose placed to dewater the flooded town of Krymsk Credit: REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko

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.

As the flood waters receded, residents tried to remove mud from their homes and salvage possessions.

Even heavier rain fell in Gelendzhik, a popular seaside vacation spot about 120 miles up the coast from Sochi, where preparations are under way for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Novorossiisk, a major Black Sea port, was also affected.