Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation to determine whether enough was done to warn people in the Black Sea region about the flooding that killed more than 170 people early yesterday.
Torrential rains dropped up to a foot of water in less than 24 hours, turning streets into swirling muddy rivers and inundating thousands of homes as many were sleeping. The water rushed into one town with such speed and volume that residents said they thought the water had been released from a reservoir in the mountains above.
Local officials deny any water had been intentionally released, but federal investigators acknowledge that some flowed out of the reservoir naturally. However, they insist the release did not cause the flooding and the dam had not been breached.
Federal prosecutors say they are investigating whether the population had been properly protected from "natural and technological catastrophes."