As Russia mourns for the victims of the catastrophic floods in Krymsk, residents are already trying to piece their shattered lives back together. And while the world tries to understand the disaster, locals are faced with more pressing questions.
The stories of the survivors are harrowing, describing a wall of fast moving water that came without warning.
Lyudmila Haralampidi managed to get out of her house and climb to the top of a neighbor’s fence, perched there through the night while she waited out the waters.
“The water rose to more than one and a half meters. I was sitting on the fence praying it wouldn’t come higher because I knew I would have drowned,” she told RT’s Tom Barton.
Lydumila was lucky. As she watched the waves engulf her home up to the second floor from the relative safety of the fence, only one of the walls collapsed. Not as fortunate was her elderly neighbor, who is rumored to have perished when the flood swept away the foundations of her home, causing it to collapse on top of her.
Many who died were elderly, too weak to escape the rapid flood waters in the middle of the night. Those who did survive had dramatic stories to tell RT.
“I grabbed the curtain and pushed my feet through the window. This curtain saved my life,” a World War II veteran told RT.
“The helicopter did not see me at first, but I started to wave my cane and it came back. It couldn’t land so it did not pick me up. After that a boat came and I started to shout. They saved me.”
Loved ones still missing
Information is scarce in Krymsk, in large part due to the lack of electricity. As there is no radio and still no TV in the town, people are sharing news by word of mouth and other creative means. A sign on one house read “I’M ALIVE. I’M AT MY BROTHER’S PLACE.”
Many families have gathered at local morgues to aid in identifying bodies, hoping for some information on their loved ones. Searches for the missing are still underway, Interfax reports. And while many have been reunited, for some, tragic news still awaits.
The body of a girl from Perm who was on vacation in one of the regional campgrounds was found on Sunday. Authorities say she drowned. The 8 year old Inga had gone swimming with 13 year old Maksim and his 8 year old sister Oksana, and had left their campground when the flood struck.
“Yesterday evening at around 9 pm, not far from the resort, the body of 8 year old Inga was found downriver. We presume she drowned. The search for the remaining children is ongoing,” The Ministry of Internal Affairs announced in a statement.
Russia has declared Monday a national day of mourning.
The bare necessities
Collection centers and aid drives have been set up across Russia, driven by social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and the Russian Vkontakte in order to send clothing, food, and other supplies to those affected by the tragedy. The latest information indicates 4,600 people are still without electricity and over 400 homes are without gas.
Volunteer centers have been set up across the city, and three more planes from the Emergencies Ministry arrived in the region on Monday with supplies and specialist workers to speed the recovery.
Many are sifting through the remains of their lives, trying to gather whatever they can.
“We are looking through the rubble for our things – wash them in this water and if they are ours – dry them – the clothes that we are wearing now are actually all we have left … as the wave struck we only thought about our children and our lives,” one woman told RT.
Vladimir and Kristina Morgunov are moving to their relatives in the aftermath of the tragedy. Although Kristina is expecting their second child in a couple of weeks, she still went with her husband to find what was left of their belongings.
“We’re packing all the children’s clothes. We’re expecting a girl, our second. She might need them,” Vladimir told RT.
In light of the scale of the destruction wreaked by the flooding, support has been coming from all across Russia and abroad. In addition to the thousands of emergency workers already deployed by the government, many individual volunteers have taken it upon themselves to travel to the affected areas with food, fresh water, and clothes to aid those in need.
In an act of technological ingenuity, activists have even created an interactive online map to guide volunteers into the flood zone and aid the flow of outside assistance to the victims.
The local Krasnodar administration has promised the elderly that their apartments will be rebuilt by the government within three to four months. However, they have also set aside apartments in the city for those unable to wait for new accommodations.
“Pensioners will now have the option of not waiting for the financing to become available [to rebuild their homes],”Regional Special Representative Deputy Vladimir Gurba said.
However, the number of apartments made available, 27, may pale in comparison to the needs of residents. Reports now say that 640 homes were completely destroyed in the deluge, and 3,000 people lost everything they had.
However, for many the long road home cannot begin until all the missing are accounted for.
A picture taken on July 8, 2012 shows a flooded street in the southern Russian town of Krymsk (AFP Photo / Mikhail Mordasov)
The will to rebuild
Despite the tragedy, there seems to be a palpable will among locals to rebuild and start the long journey home.
Organizers of a local music festival in the area, KUBANA 2012, scheduled to start on August 1st, have announced the show will go on as planned, but as a fundraiser for the region. Food and clothing drives will be held at the site of the festival, and portions of the ticket sales will be donated to the rebuilding of the area.
“This is a great tragedy, not only for the residents of Kubana, but for all of Russia. In light of such a situation, no one should remain indifferent. Many of the international guests at KUBANA 2012 have already expressed their concern and sympathies,” Ilya Ostrovsky, the festival’s producer, told RIA Novosti.
Scheduled to perform are a number of famous international acts, ranging from the Russian groups ‘Bravo’ and ‘Leningrad’ to America’s ‘Sum 41’, ‘Offspring’, and ‘Korn’.
Support continues to pour out from across Russia and from around world, urging those affected by the disaster to not lose hope. Aid continues to flow to the affected region from many sources, helping the afflicted take their first steps on the long road to recovery.