MOSCOW - At least 99 people were killed in floods and landslides in southern Russia after two months' average rainfall fell in a few hours overnight, police and emergency officials said on Saturday.
Some of the victims were electrocuted while others were swept into the sea. Many of the dead were elderly people who had been sleeping and drowned.
Others survived by climbing on to rooftops after the torrential rain hit thousands of homes, flooded railways and roads, and halted oil shipments from the port of Novorossiisk.
Most of the victims died in or around Krymsk, a town about 300 km northwest of Sochi, the Black Sea resort where Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
"There are lots of overturned cars, even huge trucks. Brick fences are washed away," local resident Vladimir Anosov said by telephone from the village of Novoukrainsky near Krymsk.
"People are on the street, they are at a loss what to do. Helicopters are flying overhead, they are evacuating people from the flooded areas. The floods are really, really huge. Police advise people to choose different routes," he said.
Novorossiisk, Russia's largest Black Sea port, halted crude oil shipments, a spokesperson for oil pipeline operator Transneft said. The port also suspended grain exports.
Police put the death toll in the Krymsk area alone at 88 and said two had been killed in Novorossiisk and nine in the coastal resort town of Gelendzhik.
"Police are beefing up their presence to prevent mass looting," police spokesperson Igor Zhelyabin said.
"The floods hit at night when people were asleep. You can't do anything about that. Many people in Gelendzhik were hit by electric shocks and some of them were washed away into the sea."
The Krasnodar region, with its coastline and high, wooded mountains, is a popular holiday destination for Russians, particularly Gelendzhik.
The State Hydrometeorology Agency said more rain was possible on Saturday and Sunday and Alexander Tkachov, the governor of the Krasnodar region, urged people not to panic.
"No one can remember such floods in our history. There was nothing of the kind for the last 70 years. More than 5,000 households were hit," Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.
Transneft spokesperson Igor Dyomin said regional transport was in a state of collapse, and all trains heading to and from Novorossiisk were suspended.
"The water has risen half a metre above the rails," Russian Railways said on its website.
The Novorossiisk port, which handles grains and metals as well as crude oil, said the outlet had cut shipping volumes.
"We are not loading grains due to rainy weather," spokesperson Mikhail Sidorov said. "Of course, we limited shipments. The port is located in the lower part of town, the whole landslide has moved towards it. As we speak, the rain has started again."
Last month Transneft forecast crude exports from Novorossiisk would fall to 3.38 million tonnes in July from 3.61 million tonnes in June.