Moscow –Hurricane force winds, snowfall and flooding that swept parts of southern Russia, Ukraine and Moldova left at least 13 people dead Monday and almost two million without power, authorities said.
Dubbed the ‘storm of the century’ by Russian media, the violent weather has lashed the southern regions of Dagestan, Krasnodar and Rostov, as well as the occupied Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Crimea since Sunday.
President Vladimir Putin has been following reports of the “meteorological disasters” and ordered the government to take measures to help the affected regions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said.
Russia’s energy ministry said about 1.9 million people were affected by power cuts.
Four people were reported to have died in Russia and Crimea due to the storms, with another four reported dead in Moldova.
In Ukraine, the severe weather left at least five people dead and almost 1,500 towns and villages in the dark after storms dumped up to 25 centimetres (10 inches) of snow in some places.
“Unfortunately, as of now, there are some deaths. The highest number (of casualties) is in the Odesa region — five people,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Huge waves crashed over beachside areas of Russia’s Black Sea coast, video from social media showed, as wind speeds reached over 140 kilometres (about 90 miles) per hour in some places.
Two bodies were found in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region, while state media said a sailor was killed in the Kerch Strait between Crimea and Russia.
Оne man on the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula’s southern coast was also killed, according to Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to the region’s Russian-installed governor Sergei Aksyonov.
“The man went out to look at the waves and, unfortunately, tragically died,” he said.
In Moldova, the bodies of two people were found in a car buried in a snowdrift in the southeastern area of Coscalia, Moldovan media reported.
A 48-year old man was found dead in the eastern village of Cruglic and the storm claimed the life of another man in Grigoriopol in the separatist region of Transnistria.
In Russia’s Krasnodar region, which includes the resorts of Sochi and Anapa, several people were injured when hundreds of trees were blown down, the Russian emergency situations ministry said.
In Vitiazevo near Anapa, the storm caused a large Belize-flagged cargo ship, the “Blue Shark” to run around, the ministry said.
The Caspian Pipeline Consortium said it was suspending the loading of oil and sheltering its tankers due to “extremely unfavorable weather conditions” with winds gusting up to 86 kph (53 mph) and waves up to eight meters high.
Crimean lawmaker Vladimir Konstantinov said on state television that the peninsula had experienced an “armageddon”-like scenario.
“Old-timers can’t remember this kind of wind and waves,” he said.
Parts of Crimea’s coastal highway linking the cities of Yevpatoria and Simferopol were closed due to flooding, and ferry services from Crimea’s largest city of Sevastopol were suspended.
About 500 marine animals in Sevastopol’s aquarium were killed during the storm, which flooded one of its floors, the city’s Moscow-installed governor said.
Transport on the Ukrainian mainland and southern Russia was also affected.
Train traffic on Russia’s Black Sea coast was disrupted after rail tracks fell into the sea, while oil loading at the port of Novorossiysk was suspended.
Regions in the south, like Odesa and Mykolaiv, were worst affected by the weather, as were Kyiv and Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine.
In Odesa, which has been subjected to repeated Russian strikes, authorities said they had helped 1,624 people who had been trapped due to snow.
Regional authorities said the temperature had fallen to below freezing with reports of gusts of up to 72 kilometres (44 miles) per hour.
Ukraine’s energy grid has been targeted systematically by Russian forces since Moscow’s assault began last year, and officials have warned strikes could intensify over winter.
Weather forecasts show downpours are expected to continue late Monday in the Crimean port of Sevastopol and Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea coast.
Freezing temperatures are forecast on Tuesday morning through much of Ukraine. AFP