07/10/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA

Russia mobilising for flood victims

by Nina Achmatova
Ten tonnes of humanitarian have been sent to Krasnodar, but the blame game over the 170 and more victims is heating up. The opposition wants a parliamentary inquiry and the resignation of the local governor. The government is concerned that the disaster might rekindle street protests.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - As Russia continues to mobilise to help flood victims on the Black Sea, the debate over the responsibilities of the regional government for the tragedy continues. Last Saturday and Sunday, at least 171 people died.

The first lorries with humanitarian supplies left Rostov-on-Don today for Krasnodar. "It is ten tonnes of first aid: drugs, water, baby food, sugar, UHT milk, canned meat and fish, jam, honey, pasta, sanitation products, clothing and blankets," said a spokesperson for the Rostov Oblast Youth Policy Committee. Rostov borders on Krasnodar.

Across Russia, aid collection points have been set up. Political parties, newspapers, TV stations, NGOs and ordinary citizens have launched various initiatives of solidarity; most of them posted online and social networks.

The government is monitoring the emerging grassroots network, concerned that shock and dissatisfaction might turn into fresh street protests.

The Russian Orthodox Church has been playing a leading role in providing aid. Miloserdie, one of its organisations, has been urging people on the Church's website to offer blankets and food. It has also set up an information hotline.

According to the latest figures, torrential rains affected 48,000 people. The current death toll stands at 171 but is expected to rise. Many of the dead were disabled and senior citizens. Federal authorities blame the local government of failing to warn residents of the pending danger.

About 17,600 people are without power, 28,000 without gas and 2,000 without drinking water, the Emergency Ministry said.

Meanwhile, a heated debate is underway over who is to blame for Russia's umpteenth summer disaster. Russian media have started to call July Russia's 'black month'.

For its part, the 'A Just Russia' opposition party has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the disaster. It has also demanded the resignation of Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachov, who was well aware of the dangers before torrential rains fell.

Online and in the press, questions are being raised by the high number of casualties. Some believe that a reservoir was opened near Krymsk (which had the highest number of dead, 159) to spare the nearby city of Novorossiysk, which is home to the largest oil terminal in the area.

So much water swept the region that some eyewitnesses said it looked like a real tsunami.

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