14 July 2012, 16:53

Kuban recovers after flash floods

Kuban recovers after flash floods
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The devastating flash floods that swamped the southern Krasnodar region on July 7th killed 171 people. In total, more than 30,000 people have been affected by the floods. The floods damaged about 200 strategically important facilities and left more than 5,000 houses under water.

After days of rescue operations, life in the Kuban region is returning to normal. The government has ordered to provide all those who lost their homes in the floods with new accommodation by November. The Voice of Russia’s Yelena Kovachich reports.

The streets in the cities of Novorossiisk and Gelendzhik bear practically no traces of the recent disaster. The cities are supplied with gas, water and electricity and the beaches are crowded despite warnings from medical experts who fear that it might be unsafe to swim in the coastal area. The town of Krymsk sustained the greatest damage with hundreds of houses destroyed and most basements and ground floors flooded. More than 10,000 rescue workers and 2,000 pieces of machinery were dispatched to clear up the rubble and restore power, water and gas supply. Shops and drugstores have now reopened. The local maternity hospital reports that 13 babies who were born a week after the tragedy are doing well. Teams of psychologists from the Emergency Situations Ministry have been working in hospitals, temporary shelters, humanitarian aid distribution centers, and staffing hotlines. Mikhail Vinogradov from the Center for Legal and Psychological Assistance in Emergency Situations, comments.

"Emergency ministry teams are working with maximum efficiency, approaching each case on an individual basis. It’s a tragedy if someone has lost their family. And it’s also a tragedy if someone’s house has been destroyed. But these are tragedies of different types, so they need to be approached differently as providing the same advice for these very different circumstances would make no sense."

The Kuban governor has promised to build 800 houses over the next three or four months for those who were left homeless.

The July 7 flooding has become the most devastating natural disaster in the history of the region. Heavy rains caused water torrents to stream down into the valley where most villages are concentrated. Even though the Russian Meteorological Center issued an alarm warning several hours before the downpour, no one believed that it would assume such catastrophic proportions. Pavel Konstantinov of the Moscow State University’s Geography Faculty, comments.

"Thunderstorms are normally more likely in the region's eastern areas, Sochi and Tuapse. The climate in Gelendzhik and other western areas is a lot drier. Nearly six times the average monthly rain fell in Gelendzhik in 24 hours, slightly less than 300mm. And 300mm equals 30 ten-liter buckets of water poured on one square meter of land. Given the region’s mountainous terrain, heavy precipitation can cause a lot of trouble."

Some experts say that the reason the Kuban disaster assumed such devastating proportions because of the railroad bridge and the motorway that obstructed free passage of rain water. The seven-meter wave that formed as a result of this blockage came down on Krymsk. A conclusion to this effect was made by Lev Desinov of the Institute of Geography after he studied satellite images taken at the time of the flooding.

"A railway embankment stood in the way of water torrents and the road. As water continued to arrive, an enormous amount of water accummulated between the lowest point of the river and the highway. So the moment came when the accummulated water burst out forming a 7-meter wave that came crushing on the town."

If the designs of the rail bridge and the highway had allowed for wider passages, heavy rain would not have caused a disaster of such a scale. According to Lev Desinov, this has to be taken into consideration when building similar engineering structures in other areas.

A special panel will look into the causes of the tragedy in greater detail. As Kuban recovers from the disaster, experts have to draw the right conclusions in order to protect Kuban and other flood-prone areas against similar catastrophes in the future.

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