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Russian floods cause thousands to evacuate

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Abdulmezhit Sampiyev leads a cow from his flooded house in the Russian republic of Sleptsovskaya, Ingushetia.  

MOSCOW, Russia -- The death toll from flooding in southern Russia climbed Tuesday to 72, as officials came to grips with the extent of the damage to towns and villages throughout the region.

Nearly 86,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, many of them by helicopter, since the rains began a week ago, said Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov.

More than 3,000 residential buildings have been destroyed and nearly 4,000 damaged by the floodwaters, Beltsov said. Roads, bridges, rail lines and gas pipelines have sustained damage, and some 110 towns and villages are without electricity, he added.

Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu was to fly Tuesday to Dagestan on the Caspian Sea, one of the worst-hit republics, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. About a third of Dagestan's territory has been submerged in floodwaters.

Nearly 12,000 workers are taking part in the rescue and recovery operations, ITAR-Tass reported.

Heavy flooding in southern Russia leaves thousands homeless. CNN's Eileen Hsieh reports (June 23)

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The International Committee of the Red Cross was sending plastic rain covers, blankets and drinking water containers to families in the affected territory, and said it would send more aid as it gets information about the situation, according to ITAR-Tass.

A top Russian health official who toured the flood area also said Tuesday that he was worried about the possible spread of diseases such as intestinal infections and Hepatitis A due to the disaster.

"As a result of the flood, people are being exposed more to infectious agents," Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishchenko told Interfax news agency.

A burial site for cattle infected with anthrax has also been reported uncovered by the flooding, along with other animal burial sites, Interfax reported. Officials were vaccinating all cattle in the territory against anthrax.

The floods have caused over $100 million worth of damage  

A task force dedicated to finding and destroying the remains of dead animals has also been set up to the area to help counter the threat of epidemics, according to Interfax.

Also Tuesday, Russian prosecutors said they would investigate the officials who were responsible for anti-flooding measures and cleanup operations, Interfax reported. Sergei Fridinsky, deputy prosecutor general for the southern region, also said that there had been some arrests for looting, but gave no specific figure.

The U.N. refugee agency said in Geneva that a settlement for refugees from Chechnya at Karabulak in Ingushetia had been completely flooded out. "Many of the 400 displaced people living there have lost belongings," said UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski.

However, he said most of UNHCR's official camps appeared to have come through in good condition, with only a few tents badly damaged.


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