Thousands evacuated as Kazakhstan and Russia battle huge floods

Thousands evacuated as Kazakhstan and Russia battle huge floods
Thousands evacuated as Kazakhstan and Russia battle huge floods

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A view of the flooded settlement of Pokrovka, some 90km from the city of Petropavl, in northern Kazakhstan close to the border with Russia on April 9, 2024. — AFP pic

ASTANA (Kazakhstan), April 10 — Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from areas at risk of being submerged in water across Kazakhstan and Russia amid the worst flooding in decades, officials said today.

Fast-melting snow and ice has caused rivers that cross the two countries’ border regions to surge, flooding cities and roads and prompting local evacuation orders.

“Since the start of the flood (last month), 96,472 people have been rescued and evacuated, including 31,640 children,” Kazakhstan’s Emergency Situations Ministry said Wednesday.

That figure was 10,000 higher than one it gave yesterday.

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It said 24,000 people were involved in “round-the-clock” rescue and clearance operations, including pumping away water, laying barriers and carrying out “blast work” to prevent “ice jams”.

Forced evacuations were starting in the northern Kazakh city of Petropavlovsk, where a surge of water is expected to arrive over the next 48 hours.

“A huge flow of water is moving towards Petropavlovsk. Once again, I emphasise: huge,” state media quoted regional head Gauez Nurmukhambetov as saying.

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The flooding has hit areas across the northwest of Kazakhstan as well as the Orenburg, Tyumen and Kurgan regions of Russia, just across the border.

In the city of Orenburg, home to 550,000 people, officials said water levels in the Ural river had risen 81 centimetres over the last 24 hours.

The river depth stood at 978 centimetres this morning, well above the “critical level” of 930 centimetres.

“According to expert forecasts, today it will rise again by another 30-70 centimetres,” the city administration warned on Telegram.

Officials had warned earlier this week that Wednesday could see the peak of flooding in the city.

“All residents of potential flood areas should collect valuable items, documents and immediately leave their homes,” it added.

Around 12,800 residential buildings in the Orenburg region had been flooded — 1,900 in the city — and more than 7,700 people had been evacuated, state media quoted officials as saying.

Dozens of locals had taken to the streets in the nearby city of Orsk in rare protest earlier this week, angry at the authorities’ response.

The Kremlin said yesterday that President Vladimir Putin had no plans to visit the flooded areas, but was being constantly briefed on the situation. — AFP

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