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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Russian flood deaths mount
Residents in Staraya Stanitsa village, near Armavir, in Krasnodar
Residents have salvaged a few possessions
Floods caused by rain-swollen rivers in southern Russia have killed more than 50 people and left thousands homeless.

Hundreds are reported missing in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region since the 1930s.


We could have prevented some of the casualties if the whole system had worked well together

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu
As officials blame each other for a poorly co-ordinated response, latest reports say a dramatic improvement in the weather is likely to help minimise further losses.

Russian emergency workers are distributing food and medicine by helicopter to areas where there is no road access, because bridges have been swept away.

The Emergencies Ministry said 53 people were known to have died, although the Russian public broadcaster ORT put the known death toll at 65, and Interfax news agency said up to 70 people were confirmed dead.

The devastation is reported to include:

  • 75,000 made homeless
  • 70 villages under water
  • 105,000 people without electricity
  • 14 bridges swept away in Stavropol region alone
  • An oil slick in the Sunzha river from a flooded refinery

Large stretches of road and railway, and hundreds of hectares of farmland, have also been destroyed.

The worst affected areas are the Stavropol and Krasnodar regions, and the republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria.

Click here to see a map of the area

Cargo planes have flown in food, and helicopters have plucked stranded villagers from rooftops.

Soldiers trapped

Dagestani authorities say one third of the region is under water. One village, Kizlyar - where frantic efforts were made to reinforce flood defences - appears to have been saved by the turn in the weather.

A man loads his belongings into a boat to save them in the village of Krasnaya
Many people were forced to leave their houses
The floods are the worst in Russia since the Siberian republic of Yakutia was inundated by melting snow and ice a year ago, and residents say they are the worst in Chechnya since 1937.

Emergency officials said many of the deaths were caused by heart attacks, exposure to cold water, and the collapse of structures weakened by the flooding.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered the military to help repair the damaged infrastructure and sent Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu to the region to co-ordinate the rescue effort.

However, some military units in Chechnya are also reported to be trapped by floodwaters.

Mr Shoigu acknowledged widespread public concern that the rescue effort had started too late.

"We could have prevented some of the casualties if the whole system had worked well together, starting with the weather forecasts," he told journalists.


Map of the region

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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"The floods have been some of the most damaging in recent years"
See also:

16 May 01 | Europe
29 May 02 | Country profiles
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