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Floods Kill 28 in Russia, Leave 20,000 Homeless

June 23, 2002|From Associated Press

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Flood waters swept away homes, washed out bridges and left at least 28 people dead and 20,000 homeless across southern Russia.

Rescuers in helicopters plucked residents to safety, some from trees to which they had clung. Other helicopters flew in food and water for drivers stranded on the region's main highway.

The victims included two rescue workers, one of whom drowned while helping to evacuate a village in the Stavropol region, 750 miles south of Moscow, news agencies reported.

Buildings battered by flood waters collapsed, killing other people from exposure to cold water or from heart attacks, said Lt. Col. Yuri Kolodkin, duty officer at a special army flood relief headquarters.

President Vladimir V. Putin met with top ministers in the Kremlin to discuss relief efforts for those left homeless by the raging rivers, swollen after days of heavy rain. Damage has been estimated at $106 million.

Helicopters carried out more than 50 evacuation flights in the Stavropol region, in one case rescuing 50 children from a flooded health center, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei K. Shoigu, who flew to the region, said 6,000 people had been evacuated in the previous 24 hours, presidential press secretary Alexei Gromov told the Interfax news agency.

In the republic of North Ossetia, the regional emergency situations minister, Boris Dzgoyev, said thousands of villagers were trapped and were being evacuated by helicopters. He said 13 bridges had been destroyed.

The separatist republic of Chechnya also was badly hit, with nearly all bridges over the Argun River swept away and many districts cut off from aid.

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