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Flooding Drives Up Death Toll in Southern Russia - 2002-06-29

The death toll continues to climb in catastrophic flooding in southern Russia. Authorities have said at least 93 people have so far died, while thousands of others have been forced to flee their homes.

Continuous heavy rainfall has caused some of the worst flooding to hit southern Russia in recent years. The death toll continues to rise, thousands of people have been made homeless and damages are estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Another factor that has added to the misery has been the apparent lack of preparation by local authorities. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to the region and harshly criticized the lack of a proper system of early notification.

The president is quoted as saying that if preparations had been put in place earlier, the number of victims might have been fewer and the amount of property damage might have been minimized.

Emergency relief authorities said they are working feverishly to try to help those affected. They said helicopters and cross-country vehicles are being used to evacuate people and they said tent camps and mobile kitchens have been set up to provide relief.

The Emergencies Ministry said that while many areas are still under water, services in other areas are being slowly restored, as flood waters recede.

Among the areas worst hit by the flooding are the regions of Stavropol and Krasnodar. This mountainous area of the north Caucasus already suffers from chronic poverty and from the consequences of the guerrilla war being fought between Russian forces and separatist forces in the neighboring republic of Chechnya.