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One Month After Floods In Southern Russia, Survivors Tangled In Red Tape

  • Yelena Vlasenko

KRYMSK, Russia -- One month after deadly flash floods destroyed their houses, resident of Krymsk say authorities have failed to deliver on their promises of help.

Some have returned to their devastated homes pending the extensive repairs pledged by the authorities.

Those whose homes were entirely destroyed have been living in the town's House of Culture since the floods hit Krymsk and two neighboring towns on July 7, killing more than 170 people and deluging thousands of homes.

Survivors say they are now facing a barrage of red tape that is depriving them of even the most basic supplies.

Viktoria Draganova, who lost her home in the flood, is among those camped out at the House of Culture. "Autumn is approaching. We keep looking at the sky, it will soon get cold and rainy," she says. "What will we do? Where will we go?"

'Not Even An Umbrella'

Bureaucracy and excessive paperwork is also hampering the distribution of aid, residents say.

One woman affected by the disaster, Lyudmila Ushakova, says she had to spend several hours filling in forms before gaining access to the warehouses where aid is stored.

The humanitarian response, she adds, has been grossly inadequate. "The warehouses are half-empty, and the items there are not what they should be," she says. "What we really need is clothes and shoes. It will get cold soon and people have no warm clothes or shoes. It will start raining and not a single one of us has an umbrella."

A local resident looks at a house damaged by the floods in the town of Krymsk. Many say they've yet to receive the compensation promised by the authorities.

A local resident looks at a house damaged by the floods in the town of Krymsk. Many say they've yet to receive the compensation promised by the authorities.

Survivors also complain about hold-ups in payouts from the government. Many of them have yet to receive the 160,000 rubles ($5,000) in compensation promised by President Vladimir Putin by July 23. Most have spent the best part of the past month filling out complex official forms.

"I haven't received any compensation or financial reparation. I queue at offices from morning till night, and all I'm told is 'Wait, wait,'" says Aleksandr Martinovich, an elderly man. "Nobody wants to deal with us. I don't think I'm going to withstand this."

'Nowhere To Turn'

Those facing the greatest hardship are perhaps non-Russian citizens, who are not entitled to any compensation. Nedim Sedbekirov, a foreign national who has lived in Russia since the late 1980s, says he feels betrayed by the government.

"We pay taxes, but when there's a tragedy we're no longer wanted. And there's no one to complain to," Sedbekirov says. "All we can do is leave or declare a hunger strike. It's like I'm not a human being. I think other countries wouldn't deal with such a situation in this way."

The victims' frustration is fuelled by lingering anger over the authorities' failure to issue proper flood warnings. And despite official denials, many continue to believe that the torrential floods were caused by the accidental opening of reservoir sluice gates.

Claire Bigg contributed to this report from Prague

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