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At least 105 die as torrential rains inundate southern Russia

July 7, 2012 |  9:44 am

Floods

MOSCOW -- At least 105 people died when torrential rains tore through southern Russia, catching sleeping people by surprise and flooding tens of thousands of homes, authorities said Saturday.

"They ran out in the night with only with the clothes on their backs. My [parents] were able to save themselves and their passports," Anna Kovalevskaya, whose parents live in Krymsk, a city in the Krasnodar region overwhelmed by the downpour, tweeted from Moscow. "The city is in panic."

Regional governor Alexander Tkachev tweeted as he flew over the devastated area that "something unimaginable" had occurred in Krymsk, a city of 50,000 about 750 miles south of Moscow. He later told the NTV news channel that the flooding was the worst the town had seen in 70 years.

Local news reports and residents’ Twitter and blog posts charged that the local government had released water from an overflowing reservoir in the nearby mountains overnight without warning, inundating the city with a 23-foot wave that tore down everything in its path.

"At night the water was so strong that it turned the asphalt inside out. People are upset — they say nobody warned them about the flood. We came across several streets with covered bodies," Irina Kizilbasheva, a reporter for the local Channel 9 station, said in a news report.

Local officials denied the allegations.

"Nobody opened any reservoirs or floodgates, and in the Krymsk region there is no reservoir where floodgates can be opened to release water on the city," regional government spokeswoman Anna Minkova said. "It's all nonsense."

At least 94 people died in Krymsk, Russia’s Interior Ministry reported. The nearby Black Sea port of Novorossiysk reported two deaths, and nine people were reported killed in the seaside resort of Gelendzhik, at least five of them from electric shock after a transformer  fell. But residents fear the death toll is much higher.

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-- Khristina Narizhnaya

Photo: Floodwaters cover the Russian city of Gelendzhik on Saturday. Credit: Russian Interior Ministry  / AFP/Getty Images

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