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50 Dead, Thousands Homeless in Russian Floods - 2002-06-24

More than 50 people are dead and about 55,000 others have fled their homes after heavy flooding in southern Russia destroyed thousands of homes.

One of the worst-hit regions is Dagestan, on the border with the breakaway republic of Chechnya. A spokesman for the Dagestan's emergency ministry, Ali Talboyev, said one-third of the region's territory is covered with floodwater.

Chechnya has also been hard hit by the flooding as well as the surrounding areas of Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria.

Many residents in mountainous areas of southern Russia cannot escape the flooding because the water has swept away bridges or covered up roads.

Many people tried unsuccessfully to cross swollen rivers in cars or trucks. Russian television showed pictures of the floodwaters carrying vehicles away.

This year has brought unusually heavy rains to the southern Russia. Rivers are overflowing their banks and many reservoirs are at dangerously high levels.

Monday did bring some good news, however. In some areas, the floodwaters are receding and residents have been able to return to what is left of their homes. Rescue workers are trying to repair downed power lines and sewage lines that have been blocked up.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Saturday with members of his cabinet to discuss the flooding and sent Emergencies Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu to the region to assess the situation.