Thousands evacuated from flood-hit Russian city

Published April 14, 2024
An aerial view shows the flood-hit city of Orenburg on April 13. — AFP
An aerial view shows the flood-hit city of Orenburg on April 13. — AFP

ORENBURG: Thousands of people were evacuated from the Orenburg region in the south of the Urals as floodwater continued to rise, Russian emergency services said on Saturday.

In the city of Orenburg, one of the worst-hit areas in Russia, the Ural River breached its banks, submerging streets and residential areas and water levels continued to rise. By Saturday afternoon, the river level had reached almost 12 metres (39 feet), more than 2.5 metres above the level considered ‘critical’.

The Ural River flows through the centre of Orenburg.

Fast-rising temperatures have melted snow and ice, and along with heavy rain have caused a number of major rivers that cross Russia and Kazakhstan to overflow this month.

Ural River breached its banks after water rose above ‘critical’ level

Floodwater covered the embankment promenade and swirled around houses and high-rise apartment blocks built close to the river, an AFP journalist saw.

Almost 14,000 people have been evacuated from Orenburg and the surrounding region, according to authorities.

Eldar Rakhmetov, an official from the Ministry of Emergency Situations involved in the evacuation, said: “There has been an increase in the number of homes flooded since this morning and more areas are being evacuated.” Local residents were using rubber dinghies to try to retrieve pets and belongings from flooded houses and some areas were left without power.

Valery, 64, a local factory worker, was one of those evacuated on Saturday by a police truck. “The most important thing is that (my house) does not get looted. That is what I am worried about. Other than that, it is fine! We will survive,” he said.

The Kurgan region further east was also urging people to evacuate, anticipating the arrival of floodwater.

Governor Vadim Shumkov urged residents likely to be affected to leave now as the level of the River Tobol is forecast to rise sharply due to melting ice.

“The water is treacherous and when there is so much of it, it rises unpredictably,” Shumkov warned residents on Telegram, urging them to leave with valuables and pets. “If you do not leave in time, you might not be able to sit it out in the attic or on the roof,” the governor added.

220,000 affected in Kazakhstan

 A drone view shows cars driving along a partially flooded road in Petropavl, Kazakhstan on April 13. — Reuters
A drone view shows cars driving along a partially flooded road in Petropavl, Kazakhstan on April 13. — Reuters

In Kazakhstan, which shares around 7,500km of border with Russia, flooding affected the outskirts of the northern city of Petropavlovsk, which has around 220,000 residents, leaving some areas without power or mains water.

More than 103,000 people, many of them children, have been evacuated in the vast Central Asian country, where almost 5,000 homes have been flooded out, according to the emergency situations ministry.

Climate change is associated with more frequent extreme weather events such as floods.

In the Russian Urals city of Orsk, where a dam protecting the city broke earlier this month, residents held rare protests this week over the local authorities’ handling of the crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting on the floods on Thursday, but has not visited the affected regions.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2024

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