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Thousands evacuated in Russia and Kazakhstan

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-18 09:24

A drone view shows a residential area divided from the flood waters in Orenburg region in this picture obtained by Reuters on April 17, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

Authorities in Russia and Kazakhstan continued to evacuate people from affected areas on Wednesday as the two countries have been grappling with some of the worst flooding in living memory this week.

The disaster, caused as meltwaters have swelled the tributaries of the world's seventh-longest river system in Russia's Ural region and northern Kazakhstan, forcing more than 125,000 people to flee their homes.

The total number of people evacuated from their homes rose to 200,000 as the governor of Russia's Tyumen region told residents of Ishim, a town of 65,000, that they should leave immediately.

"The probability is growing of dams bursting, or water pouring over them," Governor Alexander Moor said. "You all know about the danger. Gather your valuables. Immediately drive to safer places, to relatives or evacuation points where we will supply you with all essentials."

Russian agricultural companies have not been significantly disrupted by heavy flooding in several regions, Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said on Tuesday, easing fears about possible crop destruction.

The spring sowing area spans nearly 5 million hectares, which is slightly higher than last year, the minister added.

Russia expects to record its second-largest harvest in 2024, after a record 147 million metric tons of grain in 2023.

The agriculture ministry said an emergency has been declared in the Orenburg, Altai, Kurgan and Tyumen regions. The Samara region along the Volga River is also at risk of flooding, it said.

According to industry experts, the real damage can only be assessed once the waters have subsided.

The Kurgan and Tyumen regions are threatened the most by the floods, and measures are being taken to address those risks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"A lot of work has been done there, but we know that the water is treacherous, and therefore there is still a danger of flooding vast areas there," he said.

Floods were also inundating homes in the Tomsk region in the southwestern part of Siberia, regional officials said on Telegram.

Almost 140 houses near the city of Tomsk, the regional administrative center, were underwater on Monday and 84 people were evacuated.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said "huge material damage could have been minimized" if regional authorities had paid more attention to forecasting the water levels and responding more effectively.

Water levels in the rivers of the Tyumen region could reach an all-time high, RIA reported, quoting Governor Moor.

Worst disaster

In neighboring Kazakhstan, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Tuesday described floods across the north of the country as the worst national disaster in the last 80 years and ordered his government to free up funds for relief efforts by cutting spending elsewhere.

Tokayev arrived in Petropavlovsk on Tuesday, where the local governor said 10,345 people had been evacuated as parts of the city remained underwater.

"We are going through tough times. This is a disaster of a national scale," Tokayev told residents. "I think the next 10 days will be critical, but we are already taking measures to rebuild the country and deal with the aftermath of this disaster."

Tokayev's office said that in order to free up money for disaster relief, he had ordered the cabinet to cut all nonessential budget spending and cancel some events, including an economics and international affairs conference in the capital.

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which handles some 1 percent of global oil, said it was working to protect its facilities from floods in Kazakhstan's Atyrau region.

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