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Russian dam bursts forcing thousands to evacuate in flood-hit southern region

<i>Russian Emergencies Ministry via Reuters via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Three people are reported to have died so far.
Russian Emergencies Ministry via Reuters via CNN Newsource
Three people are reported to have died so far.

By Radina Gigova and Darya Tarasova, CNN

(CNN) — Thousands of Russians have been evacuated from their homes after an embankment dam broke in the southern region of Orenburg, near Kazakhstan, authorities said.

The dam in the city of Orsk could not contain the flow of water of the Ural river and broke in two places, local authorities told TASS.

At least three people have died as a result of the flooding, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Authorities have reported that 4,208 people in the region have been evacuated, including 1,019 children, and 495 temporary accommodation centers for 82,200 people are being prepared, according to TASS.

As of Saturday morning, the level of the Ural river was nearly double the level the dam was designed to handle, according to regional authorities.

The dam failure occurred because the hydraulic structure was not properly maintained, and a criminal investigation has been opened, the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The dam was protecting the city from the waters of the Ural river. By Saturday morning, the water had reached several districts of the city, flooding nearly 2,400 residential buildings, TASS reported.

“A state of emergency is in effect in Orenburg,” the head of the Orenburg region Sergey Salmin said in a Telegram post Saturday.

“This situation leaves us no choice; overnight the [river] level may reach a critical level. I demand that everyone immediately leave their houses in the flood zone.”

“Those who refuse to leave the danger zone voluntarily will be evacuated forcibly, with the participation of police officers,” he added.

Orsk, a city of 230,000, lies near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev described the flooding as one of Kazakhstan’s largest natural disasters in 80 years, according to Reuters.

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