Death toll hits 150 from floods in southern Russia

Gelendzhik in Russia. (July 6, 2012)

Gelendzhik in Russia. (July 6, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

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MOSCOW - The death toll rose to 150 on Sunday from severe flooding in the Black Sea region of southern Russia that turned streets into rivers, swept away bridges and inundated thousands of homes as many residents were sleeping.

Torrential rains dropped up to a foot of water on some parts of the region in 24 hours, which the state meteorological service said was five times the monthly average.

The water rushed into the hard-hit town of Krymsk with such speed and volume late Friday and early Saturday that residents accused local officials of opening a water reservoir in the mountains above.

Federal investigators acknowledged Sunday that water had been released from the reservoir, but they said it did not cause the flooding and the dam had not been breached.

Heavy rain also fell in Gelendzhik, a popular seaside vacation spot about 200 kilometers (120 miles) up the coast from Sochi, where preparations are under way for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Interior Ministry said Sunday that 150 bodies had been recovered, 139 of them in Krymsk and nine in Gelendzhik.

President Vladimir Putin flew to the region Saturday evening and viewed the damage from a helicopter. Television footage of Krymsk shot from Putin's helicopter showed the city of 57,000 people partially submerged in muddy water. The city stadium looked more like a lake.

Across the region, more than 5,000 homes were flooded.

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