Residents in the southern Krymsk region of Russia have told Sky News they were not warned about the floods that killed at least 171 people.
Emergency ministry chief, Vladimir Puchkov, said a warning system was in place but admitted it could have been more effective.
"A system to warn the residents was set up. But, unfortunately, not everyone was warned early enough," he said.
But angry locals say they were not alerted and only became aware of the danger when water started gushing into their homes.
Nikifor Shevtsova and his young sons Nikita and Alexei, survived by clambering onto the roof of their home - just before the water went well above head height:
"There was no warning although the local governor says they started telling people at 10.30. Nothing like that happened.
"There was a very easy example today - someone started a panic that there would be another flood and the city was evacuated in 15 minutes only. They could have done that on Friday and no one would be dead," he said.
The floods have left thousands of people homeless and put another stain on the Russian government's blighted public safety record.
Mr Nikifor's neighbour Nastya says she believes the official number of those killed by the floods is far less than the reality.
"In the street next to ours 50 people died and it's the same in many others across the region.
"It's the same old story - small lives don't matter," she said.
Vladimir Putin has been keen to prove such theories wrong.
The president, who has been criticised for a lacklustre response to past tragedies, was shown on state television demanding his subordinates report back to him by the end of the week on how the relief effort was going.
"We must help these families, help all the people who are in very difficult circumstances and have lost almost all their belongings," the president said.