REUTERS – At least 78 people were killed and thousands of homes were flooded in torrential rain and landslides in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, police said on Saturday.
A police spokesman said 67 people had been killed in the town of Krymsk after an average two-months’ rain fell in just a few hours in the popular holiday region on the Black Sea where Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Television footage showed flooded streets and people scrambling onto rooftops.
“There are lots of overturned cars, even huge trucks. Brick fences are washed away,” a local resident, Vladimir Anosov, said by telephone from the village of Novoukrainsky.
“People are on the street, they are at a loss what to do. Helicopters are flying overhead, they are evacuating people from the flooded areas. The floods are really, really huge. Police advise people to choose different routes,” he said.
Novorossiisk, Russia’s largest Black Sea port, halted crude oil shipments, a spokesman for oil pipeline operator Transneft said. The port also suspended grain exports.
Police spokesman Igor Zhelyabin put the death toll in Krymsk at 67 and said 11 people had been killed in Novorossiisk and the coastal town of Gelendzhik.
“Police are beefing up their presence to prevent mass looting,” Zhelyabin said.
Two other people were unaccounted for, he said.
Alexander Tkachov, the governor of the Krasnodar region, urged local residents not to panic.
“No one can remember such floods in our history. There was nothing of the kind for the last 70 years. More than 5,000 households were hit,” Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.
The State Hydrometeorology Agency said more rain was possible on Saturday and Sunday.
“The region’s transportation is in a state of collapse,” Transneft spokesman Igor Dyomin said, and Russian Railways’ website said all trains heading to and from Novorossiisk had been suspended.
“The water has risen half a metre above the rails,” it said.
The Novorossiisk port, which handles grains and metals as well as crude oil, said the outlet had cut shipping volumes.
“We are not loading grains due to rainy weather,” spokesman Mikhail Sidorov said. “Of course, we limited shipments, the port is located in the lower part of town, the whole landslide has
moved towards it. As we speak, the rain has started again.”
Last month Transneft forecast crude exports from Novorossiisk would fall to 3.38 million tonnes in July from 3.61 million tonnes in June.