MOSCOW, July 9, 2012 (AFP) - The negligence of local authorities and a failure to learn from past disasters were a prime factor behind the flooding that claimed at least 171 lives in southern Russia, the press said on Monday.
With officials keen to blame freak rains for the disaster, both pro-government and opposition newspapers showed rare unanimity in saying the authorities had badly failed local inhabitants in the worst-hit town of Krymsk. "The tragedy of Krymsk was a perfect demonstration of what slovenliness and hoping against hope brings about," said the pro-Kremlin Izvestia daily in a scathing assessment of the official reaction. The Vedomosti daily said that flooding in the southern Krasnodar region was in no way a novelty and authorities were well aware of the risk, particularly after deadly floods in the summer of 2002 that had also hit Krymsk. "The catastrophe shows up the inability of the authorities to protect the population from natural disasters," said the opposition-inclined economic newspaper. "People were not evacuated and were not warned about the threat," it said. The staunchly pro-government Komosmolskaya Pravda asked simply in a stark headline over a picture of the Krymsk devastation: "Why so many dead?" It noted that residents had received warnings about the severe weather through SMS messages and also information on the news ticker of local TV. "But, as the inhabitants of Krymsk say, most people knew nothing about this."
The Moskovskiy Komsomolets newspaper said starkly: "The Krymsk catastrophe could have been foreseen and averted. "There is no point waiting for help from the authorities, at least in the first hours after a disaster," it added. "And Russians have got so used to lies from the authorities that even in natural disasters they are inclined to accuse the state." The governor of the Krasnodar region Alexander Tkachev however described the flood as a "great surprise" and claimed that nothing could have been done to avert it. "This is the same kind of catastrophe as an earthquake. What can be done? Man here can do nothing against this, he has no chance," he told Izvestia in an interview.