Parts of Kazakhstan and Russia declare state of emergency after ‘worst floods in 80 years’


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Ten regions of Kazakhstan have declared states of emergency after strong floods hit the entire northwest of the country. 

The flooding was sparked by a sudden and early period of warm weather that caused huge amounts of snow to melt and overfill numerous rivers across parts of Kazakhstan and Russia. 

Kazakh president Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev called the floods “the worst in 80 years”. More than 72,000 people have been evacuated. The national army has been deployed on rescue and aid missions across the regions. 

On Sunday, Russia’s government declared the situation in flood-hit areas in the Orenburg region a federal emergency, with preparations for possible flooding underway in three other regions, state media reported.

The floods, caused by rising water levels in the Ural River, forced over 4,000 people, including 885 children, to evacuate in the Orenburg region, the local government said. State news agency Tass said that a further 2,000 homes were flooded, bringing the total to nearly 6,300 in the region.

The total damage from the flood in the Orenburg region is estimated to amount to around €210 million (21 billion rubles), the regional government said on Sunday.

Alexander Kurenkov, Russia’s Emergency Situations Minister, was in Orsk, among the cities most severely affected, on Sunday to oversee rescue operations.

Orsk, less than 20 kilometres north of the border with Kazakhstan, suffered the brunt of the floods that caused a dam to break on Friday, according to Mayor Vasily Kozupitsa. By Sunday morning, 4,500 residential buildings in the city of 200,000 were flooded and evacuation efforts were still ongoing, Tass said.

A criminal probe has been launched to investigate suspected construction violations that may have caused the dam to break. Local authorities said the dam could withstand water levels up to 5.5 metres. On Saturday morning, the water level reached about 9.3 metres and rising, Kozupitsa said. On Sunday, the level in Orsk reached 9.7 metres, according to Russia’s water level information site AllRivers.

Over 1,300 homes flooded and 428 people were evacuated from the regional capital Orenburg, some 250 kilometres away from Orsk.

Footage from Orsk and Orenburg showed water covering the streets dotted with single-story houses.

The designation of the situation as a federal emergency reflects the risk of flooding beyond the Orenburg region. Russia’s Ministry for Emergency Situations evacuated around 820 people in the neighbouring Samara region, the ministry’s regional directorate said.

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