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Severe flooding rips through Russian city of Orenburg

April 12, 2024

(CNN) — A mass evacuation is underway in the Russian city of Orenburg, as severe flooding tears through parts of the country and northern Kazakhstan.

“A mass evacuation is underway,” the city’s mayor Sergei Salmin said on Telegram, instructing residents in multiple areas of the city to “take your documents, medicines, and basic necessities with you and leave home immediately.”

The mayor described the flooding situation as “extremely dangerous” and urged locals not to “waste time.”

Residents in at least eight areas or streets in the region have been asked to evacuate, according to an announcement from the Orenburg government.

Residents and Russian Emergencies Ministry rescuers ride boats in a flooded street in Orenburg, Russia, on April 10. (Photo: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

The region is home to nearly 2 million people, but it is unclear how many have been asked to leave their homes.

Floods began after Europe’s third-longest river, the Ural, was swelled by snow melt, bursting its banks and causing a deluge in dozens of towns and cities along the border.

The river flows from Russia’s Ural Mountains through Kazakhstan to the Caspian Sea, and has caused emergency responses in both countries.

“All services of the city and the region are operating in emergency mode. We are ready to help residents with moving out of flooded areas and placing them in safe conditions,” the Orenburg government said, adding that temporary accommodation facilities are available.

So far in the wider region, more than 10,000 people have been relocated from their homes, including 2,094 children.

On Friday, the water level in the Ural River surpassed 37 feet (11.47 metres), according to city officials.

The First Deputy Head of Orenburg Alexey Kudinov said peak flooding is expected in Orenburg on Friday, after which “a stable condition” is expected.

A man tows an inflatable boat holding his belongings along a flooded street in the Orenburg region. (Photo: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Thursday the flooding “might be the biggest disaster in terms of its scale and impact in more than 80 years.”

The Kremlin had previously said that Russian President Vladimir Putin would receive reports from the governors of the three seriously affected regions: Orenburg, Kurgan and Tyumen.

Residents have repeatedly called on the president for assistance.

Video posts on social media showed hundreds of protesters gathering outside the city hall in Orsk, Orenburg, chanting “Shame! Shame!” and “Putin, help!”

Other footage showed demonstrators accusing the state of “doing nothing” and criticizing the city’s mayor, Vasily Kozupitsa.

“We feed emergency ministry workers with pies and dumplings and bring them thermoses… Kozupitsa cannot even provide for emergency workers. Shame!” one woman could be heard saying.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the late Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, also criticised the Kremlin.

“The authorities in our country never seem to be prepared for anything. In winter, they are unprepared for frost and snowstorms, in summer – for fires, and in spring – for floods,” she wrote Tuesday on X.


By Sergey Gudkov, Louis Mian and Rob Picheta, CNN

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