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President Vladimir Putin ordered a probe of emergency systems after Russia’s worst flooding in at least a decade that left thousands homeless and killed 171 people, costing two local officials their jobs.
Flash floods in the southern Krasnodar region near the Black Sea affected 22,000 people, leaving 18,700 without shelter, the Emergency Ministry said on its website today. Transport links in the area were severed, halting rail shipments to OAO Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port’s terminal because of a flood-damaged bridge.
The heads of the town of Krymsk and the surrounding district, which suffered the brunt of the damage from torrential rains, were fired by Alexander Tkachev, governor of the Krasnodar region, according to a statement published on the local government’s website. While “natural causes” were behind the catastrophe, local officials failed to issue timely warnings, according to Tkachev.
The fallout from the disaster will test Putin’s standing two months after he returned to the Kremlin following the biggest anti-government protests in his 12 years in power. The Russian leader, who rushed to tour the flooded area on July 7, demanded the “most thorough” investigation into the functioning of agencies and emergency services during the catastrophe and asked for the probe results by the end of the week.
Authorities failed to deliver warnings to local residents even after officials received information about the impending threat at least three hours before the flooding, Krasnodar’s governor, Tkachev, said at a meeting today, which has been declared a national day of mourning.
The Investigative Committee was questioning local officials and recovering technical documents as part of a criminal probe, the law-enforcement agency said on its website.
Russia’s last flooding on a similar scale in June and July 2002 killed 114 people and affected more than 380,000 people after rain-swollen rivers burst their banks in the south of the country, according to the Kommersant newspaper. Another 62 people died the following month as a result of flooding near Novorossiysk.
Farm officials from Krasnodar, the country’s largest grain- growing region, are visiting fields to assess damage from the floods. Ministry specialists will estimate possible damage to crops after field visits, Yekaterina Melnik, a spokeswoman for the regional ministry in Krasnodar, said by phone today. The region harvested 11.4 million metric tons of grains last year, or 12 percent of the national crop, government statistics show.
Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port resumed operations after halting activities for about four hours on July 7. The Black Sea terminal is drying equipment that was flooded and will be ready to load a ship with grains later this week, Mikhail Sidorov, the port’s deputy director general, said by phone.
Grain transportation to the port was disrupted after rains damaged the rail connection with Krymsk, he said. After carrying out repairs, OAO Russian Railways halted freight traffic temporarily to give priority to passenger trains, according to Sidorov. The port will use grain from its silo to load ships for now, he said.
The port, which also gets fuel oil and gasoil by railcars, will export products stored in tanks at the site until rail shipments resume tomorrow or on July 11, according to Sidorov.
Russian Railways closed transportation to Novorossiysk because of a flood-damaged bridge and began to move grain cars to Tuapse instead, Dmitry Pertsev, a spokesman for the state railway monopoly, said by phone from Moscow. Bridge repairs should be finished later today and transportation will be restored with passenger trains given priority, he said.
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