Vladimir Putin flew to southern Russia on Sunday to inspect the clean-up operation following deadly floods, determined to dispel an image of leading a weak state two months after returning to Russia's presidency.
Russian news agencies said Putin flew by helicopter to the town of Krymsk where most of the victims were killed when a huge wave swept down the hillside early on July 7, killing 171 people after torrential rain.
Putin has sought to show he is in control after being criticized for being slow to respond to disasters when he first became president in 2000. He first visited the flood-hit region near the Black Sea hours after the floods began a week ago.
The regional authorities have been heavily criticized by local people who said they were not adequately warned of the impending disaster, but no senior officials have been fired.
Some residents say the wave was so high that a local reservoir must have been opened but national and regional officials have repeatedly denied this.
Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as telling residents that they should work with an official commission to help assess the damage and guide the clean-up operation.
"The victims in the region should create a group of residents to work together with the specialists so that they take part in the decisions on what is demolished and what is not demolished, and who gets what compensation," Tass quoted him as saying.
Putin was accompanied by Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov who said electricity, water and gas had been restored in Krymsk, a town of 57,000. Officials said about 5,000 houses had been flooded in Krymsk and 1,350 were now deemed beyond repair.
Putin returned to the presidency in May and has faced the biggest protests of his 12 years in power as president or prime minister, so can ill afford to be seen to make mistakes in the handling the floods and their aftermath.
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