At least 105 die as torrential rains inundate southern Russia

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.

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Probe of Air France crash in Atlantic blames pilots, training

The investigation of the 2009 crash of an Air France jet into the Atlantic Ocean concludes that the cockpit crew took the wrong steps to correct a high-altitude stall and blamed the errors on poor training of those piloting today's highly automated aircraft.

In its final report issued Thursday, the French civil aviation authority's Bureau of Surveys and Analysis said its review of flight data recorders recovered almost two years after the crash disclosed that the two junior pilots at the controls of AF 447 were "completely surprised" by the failure of cockpit instruments to guide them out of the disaster.

All 228 passengers and crew on board died in the June 1, 2009, crash of the jet en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The Airbus A330-203, built by a European consortium that includes the French government, suffered a rare cruising-altitude loss of power while the flight captain was outside the cockpit on a scheduled break, the French investigative agency reported.

It said the two copilots, both in their 30s, didn't know what to do when ice accumulation caused the aircraft's autopilot to disconnect, and that they took the opposite action from what was needed, which was nosing the plane down to recover lift.

"In the first minute after the autopilot disconnection, the failure of the attempt to understand the situation and the disruption of crew cooperation had a multiplying effect, inducing total loss of cognitive control of the situation," said the report of the investigative bureau based in Le Bourget, outside Paris.

Pilots should be trained to deal with crises when automated controls malfunction, and "a review of pilot training did not provide convincing evidence that the associated skills had been correctly developed and maintained" in the case of the Air France crew, the report concluded.

The bureau made 25 recommendations for improved training, communication and emergency response procedures, based on its analysis of the crash.

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-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles


Titanic: In most shipwrecks, it's more like 'every man for himself'

Titanic

As the world gets set this weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, attention is once again being focused on the old adage: when a ship is going down, it's women and children first.

After the storied liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, men were ordered to stand back while lifeboats were loaded. That chivalrous act led to 70% of women and children surviving -- while only 20% of the men escaped alive.

But the Titanic isn’t the norm. A new study from Sweden finds in most shipwrecks, a more apt slogan is "Every man for himself." Men stand a better chance of surviving than women. Captains and crew escape more often than their passengers. And children seem to have the worst survival rates of all.

All in all, the study suggests the recent scandalous wreck of the Costa Concordia in Italy, in which the captain pleaded not to go back to his sinking ship, is more typical than the case of the Titanic.

Economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson of Uppsala University pored over records of 18 different maritime disasters spanning from 1852 to 2011 to assess whether "women and children first" has really been the "unwritten law of the sea," as it has long been dubbed.

Women were roughly half as likely to survive (17.8%) as men (34.5%); they found in three of the shipwrecks, all the women died. And despite the storied saying, less than half of captains went down with their ships.

Though the statistics seem grim for women, shipwreck survival rates for women appear to have improved since World War I. The finding echoes other studies showing that when women hold higher status in society, they tend to fare better in disasters.

What made the Titanic stand out, the researchers believe, was that the captain ordered women and children to be saved first -- and threatened to shoot men who disobeyed the order, as some sought to do. The captain plays a crucial role in whether women are more or less likely to survive, the new study found.

Unfortunately for women, the researchers also found, captains rarely give such an order.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: This 1912 photo shows Titanic lifeboat No. 6, carrying 11 women and six men away from the sinking ship. Credit: U.S. National Archives


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