TULUN, Russia -- Russian officials have raised the official number of dead from flooding in the southern Siberian region of Irkutsk to 18.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said on July 2 that 191 people had been hospitalized as a result of the devastating floods.
The ministry said at least 13 people are still missing and warned that the death toll “may still rise” as damaged residences are cleared.
Russian media have cited local officials as saying that nearly 100 communities and thousands of homes have been inundated since late June after rivers swelled due to torrential rains and snow melt from mountains.
Prior to the latest figures, angry residents had claimed the actual death toll was much higher than the official number and expressed anger at the authorities for perceived inaction.
Tatyana Khursenko, a journalist from Tulun, told RFE/RL that in one case, a man attempting to ferry victims to safety by boat saw two people die before his eyes.
"Today, he saw several dead bodies on the shore," she said. "This is not fake!" she added, alluding to skepticism toward locals' claims on social media.
Rescue teams have provided assistance to some 24,000 residents in several district hit by the flooding.
Thousands of homes have been destroyed and heavy rains and storms were continuing to hit Irkutsk on July 2.
More than 2,500 people have been evacuated from flood-hit areas and a state of emergency has been declared in the region.
The state-run news agency TASS quoted Irkutsk region Governor Sergei Levchenko as saying at a meeting in Tulun, where 3,000 homes were reportedly flooded, that local officials were never informed by the Emergency Situations Ministry about rising water levels.
Volunteer aid worker Sergei Derevyaga told the Current Time, a Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, that no one warned residents about the oncoming floods.
Derevyaga said fishermen were the first to know and reported the information to relatives and the authorities.