The death toll rose to at least 150 today from severe flooding in southern Russia that turned streets into rivers, swept away bridges, and inundated thousands of homes as many residents were sleeping. President Vladimir Putin flew to the Black Sea region and ordered investigators to determine whether more could have been done to prevent the deaths. 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 early yesterday that residents said they suspected that water had been released from a reservoir in the mountains above. Local officials denied this, saying it was not possible to open the sluices. Federal investigators, however, acknowledged today that water had been released, but insisted it did not cause the flooding. The Interior Ministry said today that 150 bodies had been recovered, 139 of them in Krymsk and nine in Gelendzhik. The majority of the dead were elderly who were unable to escape.