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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Scolds Regions Over Flood Damage

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that officials had failed to heed storm warnings and to act in time to soften the impact of floods that have killed 77 people and made tens of thousands homeless in southern Russia.

Speaking in Canada on the sidelines of the G-8 summit, Putin said too many people had been hurt and that the poor were always the ones to suffer the most.

"It seems to me such large-scale [destruction] could have been prevented, because information about such a development in the [weather] situation was known well in advance," he said in remarks broadcast on ORT television.

"The local authorities, from my point of view, could have worked on preventive measures more effectively," he said. Putin said it was paramount to stave off an epidemic of water-borne diseases.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said earlier this week that lives had been lost because the southern regions had failed to react quickly enough after a week of torrential rain.

A half-hour hail storm on Thursday added to the woes of the southern Kabardino-Balkaria region, with hail stones the size of eggs damaging about 1,150 homes, cutting power and phone lines and forcing Shoigu to abandon his plane and drive to the flood-hit Stavropol region. Stavropol Governor Alexander Chernogorov declared a day of mourning for Friday in his region, one of the areas to bear the brunt of the flooding, the RIA news agency reported.

Emergency Situations Ministry officials put the damage in the nine flood-hit southern regions at 15.9 billion rubles (about $500 million).

Some $20 million in emergency funds will have been released by next week, RTR quoted Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the rebuilding of homes and infrastructure should be completed by October, Itar-Tass reported.

Weather forecasters are predicting more storms across southern Russia on Friday, raising fears of a new wave of flooding, said Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Worst affected are Russia's bread-basket grain producing regions of Stavropol and Krasnodar, as well as the Caucasus regions of Karachai-Cherkessia and Dagestan. More than 300,000 people have been affected by the country's worst flooding in a decade, including 87,600 evacuated from inundated homes. In addition, 405 bridges have been swept away, as well as 2,171 kilometers of highway, and 121 factories.

More than 60 metric tons of food and medicine supplies have arrived from Moscow and the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, Viktor Shkareda, an emergency official with the southern federal district. He said more than 31,000 people have returned to their homes.

He said workers have restored most of the federal roads in the region, except for the Trans-Caucasian Highway, which is still under reconstruction.

Water-borne diseases from the rotting remains of livestock and swamped water-treatment plants pose a major health threat. Health Ministry officials say some 400,000 people are without safe drinking water, though two emergency water treatment plants have been shipped down to the region, along with supplies of bottled water.

(Reuters, AP)