Protestors turn on Putin as thousands of homes flood in Russia

Regional prosecutors cautioned people against taking part in mass meetings

Guy Faulconbridge
Monday 08 April 2024 17:03 BST
People use rubber boats in a flooded street after part of a dam burst, in Orsk, Russia
People use rubber boats in a flooded street after part of a dam burst, in Orsk, Russia (AP)

Russians left homeless by floods have turned their anger to Putin and other officials.

At least 100 asked for help from President Vladimir Putin on Monday in a city struck by the worst flooding ever recorded, chanting “shame on you” at local officials who they said had done too little to help their plight.

Russia declared an emergency in the Orenburg region near Kazakhstan after the Ural River, Europe’s third longest river, swelled several metres in hours on Friday, and burst through a dam embankment in the city of Orsk.

Swathes of Orsk, a city of 230,000 about 1,800 km (1,100 miles) east of Moscow, have been left submerged.

People came out in front of the local administration in Orsk, some chanting “shame on you, shame on you” and “Putin help”, according to video footage from the scene published by local media.

Many stood in groups in the shadow of a statue to Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin and shouted at Mayor Vasily Kozupitsa, who tried to calm residents.

With their properties either destroyed or severely damaged, some are unhappy with the compensation offered by the authorities. Some are also unhappy that the dam embankment built in 2010 was unable to defend their city.

Orenburg Governor Denis Pasler spoke to a resident group in Orsk and said it was easy to apportion blame and turn into some sort of “unruly crowd” but that many residents had tried to help the rescue efforts and been true patriots.

“Amid the problems, other people, unfortunately, have started to appear,” Pasler said, adding that he had not changed his clothes or slept for days. He called for unity.

Russia Floods (Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service)

Orenburg regional prosecutors cautioned citizens against taking park in mass meetings.

“Please take note that this mass event has not been coordinated with the authorities in accordance with the procedure established by law,” the prosecutor said.

After the dam embankment in Orsk was breached, Putin ordered Emergencies Minister Alexander Kurenkov to visit the area and has held several online meetings with governors of the affected regions - including Orenburg, Kurgan and Tyumen regions.

Some residents were angered by Kurenkov’s remarks that locals had ignored an order to evacuate a week ago. Russian media said the evacuation only began on April 5.

Another part of the dam collapsed on Monday, drone footage filmed by state news agency TASS showed. The footage showed that swathes of the city appeared to be a vast lake with houses submerged up to their roofs.

More than 10,400 homes across Russia have been flooded, with the Urals, Siberia, the Volga and central regions the worst hit, according to the ministry.

Footage from Orsk, 1,800 km (1,100 miles) east of Moscow, showed one man wading through flood water which reached his neck. He held his keys in his mouth and a black cat above his head.

The Ural River, which rises in the Ural Mountains and flows into the Caspian Sea, will reach dangerous levels on Monday in Orenburg, a city of more than half a million down river from Orsk, and the peak is expected there on April 10, Russia’s emergency ministry said.

An emergency was also declared in Tyumen region, one of Russia’s key oil producing areas of Western Siberia, Governor Alexander Moor said.

Rising water was forecast in Siberia’s Ishim and Tobol rivers, tributaries of the Irtysh river, which along with its parent, the Ob, forms the world’s seventh longest river system.

The mayor of Orenburg, Sergei Salmin, said the Ural River was expected to break the previous record of 9.46 metres. It is currently 8.93 metres.

Russia Flood (Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service)

“Absolutely everyone who is in the flood zone needs to leave their homes,” Salmin said. “Do not delay the evacuation! The situation will only get worse in the next two days.”

The governor of Kurgan, Vadim Shumkov, said the water levels were likely to be much higher than a previous record reached in 1994. He also declared an emergency.

“To all those who live in all settlements along the floodplain of the Tobol River - evacuate. Do not wait for the arrival of water. It will come at night and unexpectedly, arriving quickly, in the form of a large wave,” Shumkov said.

He said the central part of the city of Kurgan, a city of more than 300,000, would be flooded as would several other districts.

It was not immediately clear why this year’s floods were so bad as the snow melt is an annual event in Russia, one of the coldest countries in the world.

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