Russia floods: Ural River reaches critical level in Orenburg

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Many villages in the Orenburg region are now completely flooded

Russia said the situation was “extremely tense” as floodwaters continued to rise in the city of Orenburg and its surrounding areas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on Wednesday that “large amounts of water are reaching new areas.”

Water levels in the Ural River near Orenburg rose to more than 10 meters (33 feet) on Wednesday, well above the bursting point, RIA news agency reported.

The floods are described as the worst to hit the region in 80 years.

Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes in southern Russia, and officials in neighboring Kazakhstan say the number of people evacuated there has risen to 97,000 people.

Overflowing rivers have submerged entire villages.

Up to 2,000 homes have been flooded in Orenburg, where water levels have exceeded the critical level of 9.3 meters and are still rising. The city has a population of 550,000 and is located about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) southeast of Moscow.

“So far, the forecast is not favourable. The water level continues to rise,” Peskov said, adding that a “significant amount” of flood waters would also soon reach the nearby Kurgan and Tyumen regions.

Peskov added that the situation “of course requires maximum efforts on the part of government officials at all levels to help people.”

He added that President Vladimir Putin did not intend to visit the flood zone, and said that the Russian leader was instead “obtaining information and coordinating the work of all branches of the authorities.”

Last week, several rivers – including the Ural, Europe's third-largest – burst their banks after rapid melting of snow and ice caused them to swell.

Video explanation,

Watch: A drone shows Russian cities that were hit by record floods

The city of Orsk, located about 300 kilometers (180 miles) from Orenburg, was flooded when water burst through the dam bridge. Authorities there say the situation is now stable.

The Ural River flows through Orsk into Kazakhstan and then into the Caspian Sea.

Flood waters threaten several areas in northern Kazakhstan, and many dams and reservoirs are filled to capacity.

Regional leader Gawiz Nurmukhambetov warned that a “huge flow” of water was heading to the city of Petropavlovsk, which has a population of 200,000.

“Again, I stress, huge!” He said.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called on his country to unite in the face of what he described as “the largest disaster in the past eighty years in terms of its size and consequences.”

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