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'Very tense' situation as flooding in Russia forces thousands to evacuate

A man holds his cat as he pulls a boat with emergency workers in a flooded area in Orenburg, Russia, Wednesday, April 10, 2024.
A man holds his cat as he pulls a boat with emergency workers in a flooded area in Orenburg, Russia, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Copyright AP/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright AP/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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More than 100,000 people have fled their homes in Russia and neighbouring Kazakhstan.

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Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has called the situation in Russia and Kazakhstan "very, very tense" as fast-melting snow and ice swell rivers in Russia's southern Urals and northern Kazakhstan.

Both countries have declared a state of emergency after battling the rising rivers for over five days.

Kazakhstan has evacuated 96,272 people since the start of the floods. Russia itself has evacuated more than 7,000, mostly from the Orenburg region.

The floods in Orenburg began with the collapse of a dam on Saturday. Although President Vladimir Putin is frequently shown on Russian state television meeting officials and traveling across the country, the Kremlin said he is not yet planning to visit the flood-hit region.

The river's water level in the city of Orenburg was above 10 metres on Wednesday, state news agency Ria Novosti reported, citing the regional governor. Photos shared by Russian news outlets showed roads covered in water, submerged fields and partially submerged houses.

The water was approaching high-rise buildings, Ria Novosti said, and more than 300 homes were flooded overnight, according to state news agency Tass.

People in the city of Orsk gathered in a rare protest Monday, calling for compensation after their homes were damaged. Protests are unusual in Russia, where authorities have consistently cracked down on any form of dissent following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

 Hundreds of people gathered in front of the administrative building in Orsk on Monday, and videos posted on Russian social media showed people chanting “Putin, help us!” and “Shame!”

Other videos on social media showed angry Russians refusing to leave the areas near their homes because they said thieves were looting abandoned houses with boats.

A criminal probe has been launched to investigate suspected construction violations that may have caused the dam to break. Local authorities said the dam could withstand water levels up to 5.5 metres. On Sunday, the level in Orsk reached 9.7 meters, according to Russia’s water level information site AllRivers.

The Ural River, about 2,428 kilometres long, flows from the southern section of the Ural Mountains into the north end of the Caspian Sea, through Russia and Kazakhstan.

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