Torrential rains dropped nearly a foot of water on a Black Sea region in southern Russia overnight, setting off intense flooding that killed at least 78 people and forced some in the largely rural area to take refuge in trees and on roofs, officials said today.
Muddy water coursed through streets and homes in the Krasnodar region, in some cases high enough to flow over the hoods of cars. In some areas, people waded through waist-high water or maneuvered the streets in boats. About 5,000 residences were flooded, the Krasnodar governor was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency.
Igor Zhelyabin, a spokesman for the Krasnodar Interior Ministry, said 67 of the deaths were in the area of the hard-hit town of Krimsk, about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) south of Moscow. Many people were asleep when the flooding hit, and scrambled to safety, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.
State news agency RIA Novosti said five people died of electrical shock in the Black Sea coastal city of Gelendzhik after a transformer fell into the water.
State news channel Rossiya 24 showed video of area residents rescuing people in small, inflatable boats and others slogging glumly through flooded homes.
"It came so fast!" exclaimed one woman, whose name was not given, waving an arm in frustration at the shin-deep water in her living room, where a large teddy bear sat on a sofa.
As of 10 am this morning, more than 28 centimeters (11 inches) of rain had fallen in Gelendzhik since the previous evening, the state meteorological service said.
Gelendzhik is on the Black Sea coast, and along with the area around it, is a popular summer vacation spot, including many children's camps. Vice-premier Olga Golodets told RIA Novosti that some 7,100 children were at holiday camps in the area, and that with 459 children had to be evacuated.
The area also includes Novorossiisk, a major Black Sea port. The Transneft oil company said Saturday it has suspended loading oil onto tankers at the port because of the severe weather.
More than 1,500 Emergency Ministry officials were working to aid flood victims and clean up the damage, state TV said.