Russia is scrambling to deal with the aftermath of devastating flash floods that have killed at least 152 people and swept away homes in the southern Krasnodar region's worst natural disaster in recent history.
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that officials explain the massive death toll and personally inspected the worst-hit areas on Saturday evening, the first major disaster since he came back to the Kremlin for a third term in May.
The Russian strongman compared the force of the water - which trapped people in their homes at night, ripped up pavements and traffic lights and flooded rail tracks - to a "tsunami" and said the top investigator would conduct a probe to see "who acted how".
He also quickly moved to address speculation that the deluge was caused by an emergency opening of sluice gates at a local reservoir, with the Kremlin issuing a statement that Putin had been told it was not the cause of the flooding.
The Kremlin said a national day of mourning would be observed on Monday.
Flash floods frequently batter towns along the picturesque Black Sea coast during seasonal rains in the Caucasus mountains, but authorities say the current disaster is unprecedented.
Officials have been unable to explain the massive death toll, saying only the floods were caused by torrential rains over the past few days and caught many people unawares.
The force of the water was so ferocious that many residents said they suspected the floods were a man-made disaster caused by a release of water at a local reservoir on the Neberdzhai River.
Investigators acknowledged that repeated releases of water did happen but it remained unclear whether it might have contributed to the disaster.
"Over the course of 13 hours portioned releases of water were repeatedly conducted in an automated mode," spokesman for regional investigators Ivan Sengerov said in televised remarks.
"But there were not some large-scale water releases ... It is too early to say whether this was the consequence of these releases."
But some residents said they had no trust in the officials.
"It always rains here but we've never had this before. A seven-metre tall wave crushed everything," Irina Morgunova told AFP in Krymsk. "That is not rain. But no one will ever say it out loud."
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