MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who flew to the Black Sea coast on Saturday where more than 140 people were killed in a flash flood, ordered investigators to find out whether local authorities had given residents enough warning to get to safety.
Floods and landslides hit the Krasnodar region, a relatively rich area with thriving agriculture and tourism industries to underpin the regional economy, after two months' average rainfall fell in a few hours.
State news agency RIA reported more than 140 people had died, citing Interior Ministry data.
Most of the dead - many of them elderly people caught unawares as they slept - were drowned. Police said survivors climbed into trees and onto roofs to stay above the waters, which flooded entire ground floors of some buildings.
Russian news agencies quoted local officials as saying heavy rains, which have persisted in the region for over a month, were likely to stop by Monday.
The Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, the main outlet for wheat from the world's second largest exporter and a key loading port for crude oil from the world's largest producer, could resume loadings on Sunday, port sources said.
But the consequences of the flash flood could be more lasting for Putin, who has been criticized in the past for a slow response to deadly disasters, though he moved swiftly on Saturday to show he was on top of the rescue effort.
Putin was shown on state television with the regional governor, surveying the flood zone from a helicopter, and bumping over a country road in a minibus with the head of the Krymsk district, discussing the disaster response on the way.
"I have asked the leadership of the Investigative Committee to come down. The Investigative Committee will check the actions of all the authorities - how the notice was given, how it could have been given, how it should have been given and who acted how," Putin was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency late on Saturday at a meeting in Krymsk.
"I ask you to cooperate," Putin added.
It was the first major disaster in Russia since he returned to the Kremlin for a third term as president after a four-year interlude as prime minister, and he now appears to be struggling to project his customary image of mastery since the outbreak of protests against his rule.
In his 12 years in power, both as president and prime minister, Russia has been plagued by a long string of disasters that has laid bare a longstanding shortfall in investment and management for Russia's transport and infrastructure.
He ordered the Emergencies Ministry to check a nearby reservoir. Russia's state water resource agency earlier rejected speculation that a release of water from a nearby reservoir was responsible for the severe flooding in Krymsk, news agencies said.
The flooding damaged thousands of homes, forcing survivors to take shelter in tent camps set up outside Krymsk by emergency services teams.
Interfax reported the road from Novorossiisk to the popular nearby Black Sea resort of Gelendzhik was being cleared but transport, including rail transport, had largely collapsed in the region.
Two people were detained in the Krymsk area for looting, the news agency said.