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Floodwaters Receding in Southern Russia - 2002-07-01

Floodwaters are subsiding in parts of southern Russia, allowing thousands of residents to begin their journey home. Officials have revised the death toll downwards from 93 to 91, but they say the numbers could change as rescue operations continue.

After a week of heavy rain and flooding, the sun has reappeared in parts of southern Russia. The break in the weather is allowing the first of more than 100,000 evacuated residents to return to their villages.

Officials are now concentrating their effort on preventing outbreaks of disease. They say this is necessary because the flooding destroyed many kilometers of water supply lines and sewage systems across the region.

In Dagestan, the deputy head of the government, Gadji Gamzayev, says there are concerns about floodwaters breaking through local dikes.

Mr. Gamzayev says specialists fear that breaks in dams are possible in many places. He says nobody has done anything about the dikes for about 10-20 years because of a lack of money.

Meanwhile, floodwaters continue to rise in eastern Georgia, disabling water, electricity and telephone systems. There is no immediate word of casualties. Flood damage also has been reported in war-ravaged Chechnya.

Overall, damage estimates from the flooding have risen to nearly $400 million.

Russian President Vladimir Putin toured the hardest hit region, Stavropol, late last week and criticized regional and federal authorities for failing to provide early warnings to the public. He said many lives were lost unnecessarily as a result.