More than 140 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.
Five people were electrocuted as an electricity transformer fell into the water, while many more drowned. Russia’s Interior Ministry has confirmed a total 141 deaths, but that number is likely to rise.
In the Krymsky district alone, at least 130 bodies have been found. Two more have died in Novorossiysk, and nine more in the Gelendzhik district. A 10-year-old child was among the victims.
Up to 13,000 people have been affected by the disaster. A state of emergency has been declared in the cities of Krymsk, Novorossiysk, and Gelendzhik. The affected area is large and the damage widespread. Part of the Northern-Caucasus railroad has also been washed out.
Emergencies Ministry rescue teams and helicopters have been dispatched to the scene in order to join the rescue and repair efforts already underway in the region. Over 10,000 rescue officers and 140 helicopters are currently working at the scene.
Entire city streets have been completely submerged after torrential rain storms Friday, with the Krymsky district taking the worst of the floods, according to Governor of the Krasnodar region Aleksandr Tkachyov: “Gelendzhik is in better condition, there’s almost no water left there.”
The speed of the flood was also shocking, carrying away not only homes, but 16-ton trucks as well. One driver said his truck was literally carried tens of meters by the waters.
In a separate incident, a nine-year-old girl was ripped from her mother and sister’s arms by the force of the current.
Krasnodarsky Region authorities have declared July 9 a day of mourning.
Man electrocuted as four die trying to save him
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.
Over a meter of water crashed over the intersection of Ostrovsky and Kirov Street in the center of Gelendzhik, ripping up the pavement and sweeping away everything in its path. According to the city administration, 5,000 homes have been flooded.
Policeman dies saving locals
A policeman has died in the course of rescuing people in the Krymsk flood zone after his boat was overturned by a strong wave. The last people rescued by Lt. Col. Vyacheslav Gorbunov were two young children. He drowned trying to save their relatives after bringing the kids to safety.
One third of Krymsk is still submerged, with the water only receding in certain areas, complicating rescue efforts. Rescuers have already retrieved over 6,000 survivors from rooftops and trees.
Police patrolling of Krymsk was intensified at nightfall due to fears of looting, an Interior Ministry statement said. The statement called for police to pay special attention to the requests of the population.
A seven-meter wave hit Krymsk in the middle of the night – witnesses
Eyewitnesses also claim a 7-meter wave struck Krymsk in the middle of the night. The wave came down from the mountains, they say. The reasons are unknown, but one of the possible explanations, widely circulating in social networks, is that the water was discharged from reservoirs situated in the mountains. The other is that the wave was caused by excessive rain.
Anna Kovalyovskaya, whose parents are currently in the flood zone, says that local residents are expressing doubts that a reportedly 7-meter wave could have been caused by the rain storms alone.
“It all happened during the night. People just ran from their homes, because there was a huge wave of water, nobody warned them. Two-story houses were flooded up to the second floor. The water came on very fast. It wasn’t rain.
“I don’t know if this is official information or not, but in the city they are saying that they opened the water reservoir in the mountains above the city. That’s where the wave came from. In the city all of a sudden there was 7 meters of water. There was certainly a large storm beforehand, but the water came on so quick that in 15 minutes everything was flooded,” Kovalyovskaya told the Russian News Service.
The Emergencies Ministry says no water drain from reservoirs has been registered. The wave may have been caused by rain waters going down the mountains or rivers breaking the banks, they added.
“The region’s reservoirs are never full as there are waters shortages,” says Vladisvlav Bolov, a chief officer at the ministry. “So the water draining theory is nonsense.”
Local authorities deny draining the local water storage and insist it is too far away from the town of Krymsk to pose any danger to it. They also refute allegations no warning was sent to the locals.
“They just did not want to leave their homes,” Anna Minkova, the Krasnodarsky Region’s press secretary, told the Echo Moskvy radio station.
Children’s summer camps evacuated
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.
“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,” said Viktor Basargin, Governor of the Perm Region. “We have decided to take action on the issue of their evacuation.”
So far, 74 children have returned home. Some 115 more are said to be 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 land 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.
Six months’ worth of rain in two days
The flooding occurred in the aftermath of a giant storm that swept through the region. The region experienced almost half a year’s worth of rainfall over the last two days.
The most heavily affected areas are along the Russian Black Sea coast, which bore the brunt of the torrential waters as they rushed out to sea.
An Emergencies Ministry plane took helicopters and rescue teams to Anapa in order to join the rescue and repair efforts already underway in the region. Over 1,000 rescue officers are 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.
“We are in the process of identifying the victims – some are local residents, some are vacationers,” said Zhelyabin. The local police have formed an emergency commission to deal with the situation as reinforcements arrive from Moscow.
Governor of the Krasnodar region Aleksandr Tkachyov surveyed the damage in the Gelendzhik and Krymsky districts from a helicopter in order to estimate repairs, sending updates on the situation via Twitter. “It is spectacular, to be sure, and very tragic. The water came with such force that it tore up the asphalt,” the governor wrote, commenting on a picture of one of the main streets of the city where the flood hit hardest.
11 passenger trains have been diverted in the region as water level remained at half a meter above the tracks. In the Novorossiysk region 32 passenger trains have been delayed.
“All the trains that were scheduled to arrive at the Novorossiysk Station have been redirected and will now arrive at Anapa station, where passengers will transported to Novorossiysk by bus,” according to Yelena Miroshnikova, representative of the Federal Russian railway companies.
Railroad traffic around Krymsk was restored Sunday night, Russian Railways reported.
In January 2002, the Krasnodar Region saw over 60 people killed in floods caused by abnormally warm winter weather.