Russia will observe a day of mourning on July 9, 2012 for the victims of the catastrophic floods in the southern region of Krasnodar, which killed more than 150 people on Saturday.
President Vladimir Putin, who flew over the disaster area on Sunday, ordered an inquiry. He said he wanted to know whether authorities had done enough to prevent mass deaths, especially if residents had been warned about the coming floods.
The death toll in the town of Krymsk, which was hit by a wave several metres high, climbed to 140 on Sunday. Twelve more people died in Gelendzhik and Novorossiisk in the same region.
It was the worst flash floods in Krasnodar in living memory. People compared it to a tsunami and said there had been no advance warning. Many blamed the tragedy on the opening of sluice gates at a local reservoir in the mountains above the town. Investigators confirmed that there had been “automatic discharge” of excess water, but said the volumes were not big enough to account for the ferocity of the floods.
The official theory is that heavy rains that had battered the region on Friday caused local rivers to overflow and flood the towns and cities.
Thousands of houses were almost completely submerged, forcing people to seek safety on rooftops. However, many houses built of clay crumbled down drowning its residents.
Mr Putin said the government will rebuild the destroyed houses free of charge and pay 2 million roubles ($62,500) in compensation to the relatives of people killed by the floods.
The floods caused chaos on railways with about 100 passenger trains stuck in the region. Traffic resumed on Sunday but it will take days to clear the congestion.
Water levels fell in Krymsk on Sunday but it started raining again, with the weather service forecasting more heavy rains on Monday.