Rainstorm kills at least 104 people in southern Russia
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MOSCOW -- An extraordinary rainstorm in southern Russia set off floods that killed at least 104 people on Saturday morning, according to rescue officials. Survivors, some of whom clambered onto roofs or shinned up trees, later cursed what they called the government's slow response.
The storm, one of Russia's worst weather-related disasters in recent years, poured about 11 inches of rain on the country's Black Sea coast. State television reports said that was equivalent to three months of rainfall in a typical year. The area is hilly, so the water formed roiling torrents that rushed into towns.
Many residents were caught by surprise as they were awakened by water pouring into their homes, the news agency Interfax reported.
Those who stayed put fared badly, Ivan Sengerov, the local director of the Investigative Committee, a branch of the prosecutor's office, told the news agency.
"Most victims stayed in one-story private houses and either drowned at home or were flushed away in the flood," he said.
An amateur video shown on state television from Gelendzhik, a resort town on the Black Sea coast, showed a muddy river about knee-deep flowing down a street and splashing off the hoods of parked cars.
RIA Novosti, another news agency, reported that five people in the town were killed when an electrical transformer toppled over into the water in which they were standing.
One town, Krymsk in the Krasnodar region, was particularly hard hit, emergency officials said. Most of the deaths reported by Saturday evening in Moscow -- 92 out of 104 -- were in Krymsk.
Water there rose to 12 feet in a matter of minutes, witnesses said, coming in such a powerful wave in the middle of the night that rumors circulated that the authorities had released water from a reservoir; officials denied that was the case, news agencies reported.
"Why weren't we warned?" an unidentified woman at an evacuation shelter asked in a report on NTV television.
A spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin said the president would travel to the area over the weekend.
One member of the opposition in Parliament, Ilya V. Ponomaryov, said he would propose a debate about why the death toll was so high.
It was a rare challenge to the official reaction to disasters here, in which government officials are typically portrayed as acting competently and deaths are attributed to natural causes, engineering flaws or mistakes by low-level technicians.
Mr. Putin's government has been encouraging development projects along the Black Sea, despite a delicate environment and a steep coastal mountain range, in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi. Sochi is south of the areas reported as most affected by the storm.
It was unclear whether recent development work in the area contributed to the disaster on Saturday.
First Published July 8, 2012 12:29 am