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Julia Ioffe is a liar. There are many factual lies in this article, but here is just one, most obvious. There wasn't a "Katrina-like levee implosion" in Krymsk last summer that authority allegedly knew about and haven't warned the citizens. What happened there was a very strong and sudden flash flood after a day of exceptionally heavy rain (which set a record for many decades) that overwhelmed the town. The talk about "dam break" or even "artificial water dumping" in Krymsk was nothing but the internet rumor-mill, that was refuted many times and long ago. The local authorities were partly to blame for the tragedy, but their fault was nowhere near the abject failure of american authorities (local and federal) after the hurricane Katrina. In fact, all man-made disasters in Russia in the last decade combined wouldn't amount to just one monstrous, abysmal fuckup that was Katrina in the USA.
Another lie is that during the summer heat wave in 2010 the government and the media were silent on the and left people fend for themselves. I've been in Russia in August 2010, and the heat, smoke, and forest fires was a prime topic on TV and the press every day, and every day I've seen the state and local officials reporting on the situation.The heat wave affected a huge area and persisted for nearly two months, so the evacuation options were limited, of course. There were indeed thousands deaths due to circulatory or pulmonary problems, which was in line with other cases of large-scale heat wave (e.g. Chicago in 1995 or France in 2003). Yet very few people died directly from fires (contrary to claims in the article).
In general, I'd say that Russian authorities are usually better prepared for natural disasters than the American ones. It is unthinkable for Russians that the subway and all public transportation in a huge city would be out for days, as happened in New York after Sandy. Power outages in Russia usually last for hours, not days (or even weeks) as in the USA. In America the electricity often goes out, it seems, after a slightest whiff. Last year, for example, millions of people in New England lost power for 3 or 5 days after a moderate snowstorm in late October. Such snowstorm would be quite ordinary in Moscow, and people there wouldn't expect any disruption of services in its wake.