Many killed in southern Russia floods disaster

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Severe flash floods and a landslide in Russia's southern Krasnodar region have killed at least 103 people and affected nearly 13,000 in the area's worst natural disaster in decades, officials said on Saturday.

President Vladimir Putin was expected to personally inspect the worst-hit areas as officials feared the death toll could go up even further. "He will be there soon," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Residents were caught completely by surprise by the force of the waters, which ripped up paving and traffic lights, flooded the ground floors of houses, railways and roads, witnesses and officials said.

One woman reportedly had to spend a night up a tree before being rescued from the floods caused by what officials said were exceptionally heavy rainstorms.

In the district of Krymsk, an area worst hit by the disaster, officials had already discovered 92 bodies including that of a 10-year-old, a police spokesman said.

The town of Krymsk is located around 200 kilometres northwest of the Black Sea resort town of Sochi where Russia is gearing up to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

Officials have not been able to explain the large number of deaths, except by saying that the water swelled in the local Bakanka river and the disaster struck while Krymsk residents were asleep.

"Everything happened at night and very quickly," the regional administration said in a statement. Police declined to speculate on the reasons behind the massive toll, saying Moscow-based investigators were conducting a probe.

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