Rare protest held in Russian city after homes flooded due to dam collapse near Kazakh border

April 9, 2024 by No Comments

Russians in the city of Orsk gathered in a rare protest on Monday, demanding compensation after the collapse of a dam led to flooding in the Orenburg region near the border with Kazakhstan.

Protests are a rare sight in Russia, where authorities have consistently cracked down on any form of dissent following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the administrative building in Orsk on Monday, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Videos shared on Russian social media showed people chanting “Putin, help us,” and “shame.”

The flooding, caused by rising water levels in the Ural River, forced over 4,000 people, including 885 children, to evacuate in the Orenburg region, the regional government said on Sunday.

Tass reported that around 10,000 homes, including 7,000 in Orsk, were flooded in the region, and that floodwaters in the city continue to rise.

Footage from Orsk and Orenburg showed water partially submerging buildings, including homes, and nearby fields.

Russia’s government declared the situation in flood-hit areas of Orenburg a federal emergency on Sunday, with preparations for possible flooding underway in three other regions, state media reported.

After the protest, Tass reported that the governor of the Orenburg region, Denis Pasler, pledged compensation payments of 10,000 rubles a month (approximately $108) for six months to people forced out of their homes by the flood.

The total damage from the flood in the region is estimated at about 21 billion rubles ($227 million), the regional government said on Sunday.

Orsk, less than 13 miles north of the border with Kazakhstan, was hit hard by the floods, which were caused by a dam breaking on Friday, according to Orsk Mayor Vasily Kozupitsa.

A criminal investigation 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 of up to 18 feet.

On Saturday morning, the water level reached about 30.51 feet and rising, said Kozupitsa.

On Sunday, the level in Orsk reached 31.82 feet, according to Russia’s water level information site AllRivers.

Authorities in Orsk reported that four people had died, but their deaths were not related to the flooding.

The designation of the situation as a federal emergency reflects the risk of flooding beyond the Orenburg region.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken with the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, as well as the heads of the Kurgan and Tyumen regions, located in the Ural Mountains area, to discuss the situation and “the need … for early adoption of measures to assist people and their possible evacuation.”

The Ural River, about 1,509 miles long, flows from the southern Urals into the Caspian Sea, through Russia and Kazakhstan.

In the Smolensk region in western Russia, part of an overpass collapsed in the town of Vyazma, 144 miles west of Moscow, killing one person and injuring several others, Tass reported.

The overpass fell onto railway tracks, halting trains along the line towards Belarus and cutting off almost 9,000 people from gas supplies, Tass said.

Local officials have opened a criminal investigation.