More evacuations in Russia and Kazakhstan as water levels rise drastically amid worst flood in decades

Russia issued urgent calls for residents of the southern city of Orenburg to evacuate immediately on Friday as water levels rose dramatically overnight amid the worst floods in the region in decades.

Authorities called for the mass evacuation of parts of Orenburg, which is home to half a million people, as the Ural River reached 11m and 43cm or just over 37ft on Friday.

This was up from 10.87m reported a day earlier, sparking concerns over a potentially perilous situation.

The region of Orenburg has seen several areas completely submerged under water with thousands of people already evacuated since Ural broke its banks.

Rapidly warming temperatures melted heavy snow and ice and dislodged trapped water and mud in places.

Water levels have been rising in another Russian region – Kurgan and in neighbouring Kazakhstan – which is also flooded, leading to authorities evacuating at least 100,000 people.

“There’s a siren going off in the city. This is not a drill. There’s a mass evacuation in progress,” Sergei Salmin, the city’s mayor, said on the Telegram messenger app.

“The flood situation in Orenburg is extremely dangerous. Over the last 10 hours, the water level in the Ural river has risen by 40cm and now stands at 1,143cm. These levels are dangerous.”

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

Alexei Kudinov, Orenburg’s deputy mayor, said earlier that over 360 houses and nearly 1,000 plots of land had been flooded overnight.

He said the deluge was expected to reach its peak on Friday and start subsiding in two days’ time.

The village of Kaminskoye in the Kurgan region was also being evacuated on Friday morning after the water level there rose 1.4m (4.59 ft) overnight, Kurgan’s regional governor Vadim Shumkov said on the Telegram messaging app.

“We can only hope the floodplain stretches wide and the ground absorbs as much water as possible in its way,” he said, adding that a dam was being reinforced in Kurgan.

Kurgan is home to a key part of Russia‘s military-industrial complex - a giant factory that produces infantry fighting vehicles for the army which are in high demand in Ukraine where the Russian military is on the offensive in some areas.

There were no reports that the factory, Kurganmashzavod, had so far been affected.

Earlier, Russia declared a federal state of emergency in the Orenburg region, a move that allows federal forces to get involved in efforts to combat the flooding.

Additional reporting by agencies