Russians stage rare protest after dam bursts and homes flood

8 April 2024, 22:14

Russia Floods
Russia Floods. Picture: PA

Videos shared on Russian social media channels showed people chanting ‘Putin, help us’ and ‘shame’.

Russians in the city of Orsk gathered in a rare protest on Monday, calling for compensation following the collapse of a dam and subsequent flooding in the Orenburg region near the border with Kazakhstan.

Protests are an unusual 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, Russian state news agency Tass said, while videos shared on Russian social media channels showed people chanting “Putin, help us” and “shame”.

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

Russia Floods
Police officers guard an area as people use rubber boats in a flooded street after part of a dam burst, in Orsk, Russia (Anatoly Zhdanov/Kommersant Publishing House via AP)

Tass said on Monday that around 10,000 homes, including some 7,000 in Orsk, were flooded in the region and that floodwaters in the city are continuing to rise. Footage from Orsk and Orenburg showed water partially submerging buildings, including homes, as well as nearby fields.

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

Following the protest, Tass reported that the governor of the Orenburg region, Denis Pasler, promised compensation payments of 10,000 rubles a month (approximately £85) 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 (£179 million), the regional government said on Sunday.

Orsk, less than 20 kilometres (less than 13 miles) north of the border with Kazakhstan, suffered the brunt of the floods that caused a dam to break on Friday, according to Orsk Mayor Vasily Kozupitsa.

Russia Floods
Emergency workers assist a woman during the evacuations (AP)

A criminal probe 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 up to 5.5 metres (nearly 18 feet). On Saturday morning, the water level reached about 9.3 metres (30.51 feet) and rising, Mr Kozupitsa said. On Sunday, the level in Orsk reached 9.7 metres (31.82 feet), according to Russia’s water level information site AllRivers.

Authorities in Orsk reported that four people had died, but said their deaths were unrelated to the flooding.

Meanwhile in the Smolensk region in western Russia, part of an overpass collapsed in the town of Vyazma, 233 kilometres (144 miles) west of Moscow, killing one person and injuring several others, Tass said.

The overpass fell onto railway tracks, halting trains along the line towards Belarus and cutting almost 9,000 people off from gas supplies, Tass said, adding that local officials have opened a criminal investigation.

By Press Association

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