Floods Batter Russia and Kazakhstan, Forcing Tens of Thousands to Evacuate

More than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate on Wednesday after devastating spring floods engulfed cities and villages across vast sections of Russia and Kazakhstan.

The floods affected multiple settlements across Russia in the South Urals region east of Moscow, in Western Siberia and near the Volga River, as well as at least five regions of Kazakhstan, which shares a long border with Russia.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said on Wednesday that the situation was “quite tense” and the forecast was “unfavorable” as “large amounts of water are coming to new regions.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is receiving reports about the flooding but has no plans to visit the affected areas, Mr. Peskov said. On Tuesday, Mr. Putin discussed the emergency with his Kazakh counterpart, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Filling sand bags to construct a flood barrier in the settlement of Zarechny, Russia, near Petropavl, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday.Credit…Evgeniy Lukyanov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Flooded buildings in the settlement of Pokrovka, near Petropavl, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday.Credit…Evgeniy Lukyanov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, the authorities said on Wednesday that more than 96,000 people had been evacuated and rescued, and more than 3,400 buildings remained flooded in five regions.

Heavy floods are a regular feature of the spring season in Russia. But the situation appeared to be substantially worse this year after a brisk heat wave caused large amounts of snow to melt rapidly, prompting local rivers to rise, the Russian emergency authorities said.

Waterlogged soil that froze during the winter and heavy precipitation also contributed to the flooding, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Parts of the Russian city of Orenburg, a regional capital of about 540,000 people, were deluged with water on Wednesday as the Ural River that runs through it swelled more than 33 feet and continued to rise, the mayor said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

More than 7,700 people were evacuated in the Orenburg region, the regional government said.

A woman near her home in Orenburg, Russia, on Wednesday. The regional governor said the floods there were the worst in recorded history.Credit…Associated Press
Flooded areas of Akbulak, Russia, a settlement southeast of Orenburg, last week.Credit…Maxar Technologies, via Associated Press

Overall, more than 13,000 residential buildings have been flooded across Russia, according to TASS, a Russian state news agency. Russian state television showed residents paddling along roads and water touching the windows of traditional wooden houses.

Government officials urged local residents in affected areas or in those localities that were under threat of flooding to evacuate. Local prosecutors warned shops against raising prices on bottled drinking water.

On Wednesday, the situation in Orsk, a major Russian town near the border with Kazakhstan, began to improve after a flood destroyed an embankment dam on Friday, submerging the old part of the city and its smaller residential buildings.

The situation angered hundreds of residents, who went in front of Orsk’s City Hall to demand a swifter response from the local government, according to Kommersant, a Russian newspaper.

The regional governor said the situation was unprecedented and that the floods were the worst in recorded history.

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