Russia orders mass evacuation in flooded city of Orenburg

Russia orders mass evacuation in flooded city of Orenburg
  • PublishedApril 13, 2024

Tens of thousands of residents in the Russian city of Orenburg and neighbouring Kazakhstan have been told to evacuate immediately as flood waters inundate homes.

Warmer temperatures have melted heavy snow, causing rivers to quickly rise and forcing people to move to safety. 

Reports are that nearly 12,000 homes in the Orenburg region have been flooded, with another 3,600 houses under threat.

Orenburg is home to half a million people, and the city’s mayor Sergei Salmin said the situation was extremely dangerous.

“Over the last 10 hours, the water level in the Ural River has risen by 40cm … these levels are dangerous,” he wrote on the Telegram messenger app.

Two men are pictured in an inflatable boat floating next to a flooded house. On the roof is a dog.
A local resident and his neighbour use an inflatable boat to feed dogs stranded on the roof, in Orenburg.(Reuters: Maxim Shemetov)

He called on residents to gather essential items and to abandon their homes. 

Emergency workers said water levels in the Ural River were more than two metres above what is regarded as a dangerous level. 

Drone footage showed much of the city has turned into a vast lake, dotted with the roofs of houses — at least 12,000 of which have been flooded — peeking up above the brown water.

For many in low-lying homes, little can be done to save their belongings.

Drone footage Orenburg
A drone view shows a flooded area around the Dubki residential complex in Orenburg.(Reuters: Stringer)

“Everything flooded, everything’s lost, everything,” said Dmitry Dragoshantsev as he waded through the waist-high water that had ruined his home in Viktoriya, a hamlet just outside Orenburg.

He heaved his washing machine up his basement stairs with the help of a neighbour, trying to save what he could.

Another resident named Vyacheslav told Reuters news agency the damage would be “colossal”.

“Judging by the water levels, all the furniture, some household appliances and interior decorating materials are ruined,” he said.

A local animal shelter found itself hosting over 350 animals, a mix of strays and family pets dropped off by owners fleeing for dry ground.

“We’re like Noah’s Ark,” shelter director Yulia Babenko told Reuters, rows of animal cages holding cats behind her.

Volunteers from other Russian regions have organised aid for the animals, but Babenko said she had so far received scant assistance from authorities.

Streets in another district of Orenburg had become fast-flowing rivers.

Water pumps roared outside a now-empty medical clinic whose furniture had been stacked high to stay dry.

Director Svetlana Sudareva said she had tried to prepare for the disaster, discharging patients, cancelling upcoming appointments and removing key medical equipment.

“We mobilised in time,” she said. “I think everything is going to recover. And I think that we, after the epidemiological measures — I hope that we will also recover.”

Floods have also hit Kazakhstan where authorities have declared a state of emergency in 10 out of 17 regions. 

Almost 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Kazakhstan since March. 

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev described the floods as “a natural disaster … the likes of which we have not been seen for many years”.


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