ENGRUS

Kazakhstan: Rainy Season Causes Major Floods

Areas of northern and central Kazakhstan has been hit by intense floods caused by heavy rainfall and overflowing rivers, forcing thousands to flee their homes.

The crisis began unfolding on April 11 with the outbreak of intense downfalls. Rivers bursting their banks have barred roads in several northern regions of the country, including around the capital, Astana.

A detailed account of the crisis has been provided by Sputnik news agency.

Rescue workers have evacuated around 5,000 people to safer locations. Many thousands of heads of livestock have been similarly driven to more secure ground. 

The worst situation has been recorded in the town of Atbasar, in the northern Akmola region, around 260 kilometers west of Astana. Over the past weekend, levels of a river coursing past the town rose around six meters because of a combination of rainfall and snowmelt, causing it to spill over into the town. Water rushed into the first floor of numerous apartment blocks.

Those remaining in the town told stories of wailing sirens, helicopters whirring overhead and rescuers going around town in boats. More than 500 people were mobilized into the mammoth task of mitigating the fallout of the flood.

The Interior Ministry said that this year 10 billion tenge ($32 million) were allocated to local governments to help prevent and mitigate similar calamities. Questions are being raised about whether the resources are either enough or have been spent efficiently.

Residents of Astana are gripped by panic that they could be next to be inundated. On April 20, Atameken Business Channel reported on flooding in the village of Talapker, on the northwestern edge of Astana. More than 5,000 square cubic meters of water were pumped out of the village as overflow from the Yesil and Nura rivers poured in.

Back on March 18, the chairman of the water resources committee at the Agriculture Ministry, Islam Abishev, vowed that Astana was at no risk of flooding and that neither were nearby settlements. He conceded that Astana reservoirs was seeing the largest ever inflows of water, but that this was not a matter for concern.

Exactly one month later, he was forced to re-issue the same reassurances, which already sounded less convincing. To avoid any risk of dams cracking, he said, water will periodically be dumped from the reservoir.
 
Experts have said it may be another week or so before the danger has passed.