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Mass evacuations as floods in Russia’s Kurgan region set to peak

In News, World
April 15, 2024

Kurgan and Tyumen regions of Russia, and parts of Kazakhstan, are threatened by some of the worst flooding in history.

Authorities in Russia are warning people to evacuate affected areas as Russia’s Kurgan and Tyumen regions and swaths of northern Kazakhstan are flooded. Tens of thousands have already abandoned their homes.

Flooding is expected to peak on Monday in Kurgan, a region of 800,000 people at the confluence of the Ural Mountains and Siberia, as the Tobol River swelled with meltwater and burst its banks, rising to 6.31 metres (20.7 feet) in the main city.

Russia and neighbouring Kazakhstan have been grappling with some of the worst flooding in living memory after very large snowfalls melted swiftly amid heavy rain over land which was already waterlogged before winter.

Kurgan Governor Vadim Shumkov said there was almost a “sea” of water approaching the area and fresh rainfall was making the situation worse.

“The city of Kurgan itself will be next,” Shumkov said.

“The flow of the Tobol is accelerating. The water level in it is constantly rising,” he added, urging his countrymen to “leave the flooded areas immediately”.

However, he said some were refusing to evacuate.

More than 7,100 people were evacuated on Sunday from several hundred residential buildings that had been flooded, state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing Russia’s Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief, as the waters threatened 62 settlements and 4,300 homes.

Cars move through a flooded part of a road in the city of Petropavl in northern Kazakhstan close to the border with Russia on April 14, 2024. (Photo by Evgeniy Lukyanov / AFP)
Cars move through a flooded part of a road in a city in northern Kazakhstan close to the border with Russia [File: Evgeniy Lukyanov/AFP]

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 on Monday.

“Waves of large water are coming towards the Kurgan region, the Tyumen region,” he told reporters.

“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.”

Water levels in the rivers of the Tyumen region could reach all-time highs, RIA reported, quoting regional Governor Aleksandr Moor as saying.

Flooding elsewhere

In Kazakhstan, where more than 108,000 have been evacuated since floods began last month, waters submerged more than 1,000 additional homes in the city of Petropavlovsk on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of more than 4,500 people.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said earlier this month that this was the country’s worst natural disaster for the last 80 years.

The Tobol, a tributary of the Irtysh, rose 23cm (9 inches) in the four hours to 6am (01:00 GMT) on Monday, regional authorities 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, which is the regional administrative centre, were underwater on Monday and 84 people were evacuated.

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