By Kira Youdina | July 18, 2012 - 15:30 GMT
The flood in Krymsk has had dire consequences for the local population of 57,000, as people have lost family members, homes, and livestock. With the help of the Internet, thousands of volunteers have arrived to the region and thousands more have helped to organize relief aid, donating clothes, food, and money to flood victims. While people of all political convictions have worked side by side to help in this common tragedy, distrust of the government has increased with rumors spreading regarding the authorities’ response.
Firstly, while local government officials claim that residents were warned via text messages, locals have accused the government of delaying the necessary warning and others claim that they did not receive a warning at all.
Furthermore, given the height to which the flood water rose, suspicions emerged that the nearby Neberdzhaevsky dam reservoir had broken. The rumor was diffused as local residents were flown in a helicopter by the government in order to inspect the dam’s infrastructure. However, the rumor did not fully subside. Krymsk residents continued to speculate that the flood was intensified by the deliberate opening of the water reservoir in order to save the more densely-populated town of Novorossiysk. While authorities have denied this rumor, the Investigative Committee has searched the offices of the reservoir’s company as part of the investigation into the disaster. Other explanations indicate that excess water from the reservoir was released only after Krymsk was already flooded.
To make matters worse, while the official death toll rose gradually to over 150 people, ground witnesses described a more serious situation, with death tolls rumored to be in the thousands.
The flood rumors reflect the Russian population’s deepening distrust in the government over the past few months. Some attribute the rumors to Internet speculations, while others believe it is the conspiracy theories of upset Krymsk residents. Either way, the flood damage and inadequate response of the authorities only serve to hurt the image, not only of local authorities, but President Putin himself. During his visits to the region on the day of the flood, 7th July, and again on Monday, 16th July, Putin reprimanded local authorities for their mistakes and promised monetary compensation to flood victims.
While some of the initial rumors have subsided, the distrust continues to deepen as more rumors circulate that the thousands of volunteers that have arrived in the region are being mistreated by local authorities and ousted out of their camps. The authorities insist that they are always glad to have volunteers and a new law should be created to provide support to volunteer activity. At the same time, local government officials have indicated that among the volunteers are some provocateurs who are spreading conspiracy theories regarding the government’s flood response.
Amidst the political tensions and rumors, one thing is clear: Russia needs a national disaster warning system, something to which the authorities have admitted. Such a system is especially necessary if natural disasters increase due to global climate change.
(Photo: © RIA Novosti)
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