Russia and Kazakhstan: Aid for flood victims in Orsk, Orenburg, and Petropavlovsk


Fr. Marek Raczkiewicz CSsR for Many cities are under water, roads are blocked, there is a lack of electricity, and hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated. These are the consequences of the catastrophic floods that occurred during the spring melt in Russia and Kazakhstan, aggravated by the failure of the Orsk dam on the Ural river near the border between the two countries. Local priests, nuns, and volunteers are trying to help those affected. These are the worst floods in the Urals region since the 1980s.

Rapid melting of snow and ice has caused massive flooding in Russia in recent weeks. The situation was complicated by the rupture of the Orsk dam on the Ural River, the third largest in Europe.

“The actual extent of the damage will only be known for some time. In Orenburg alone, a city of over 600,000 inhabitants, thirteen neighborhoods were submerged. More than 5,000 houses are underwater,” says Father Andrzej Legieć, a Redemptorist working in Orenburg. – The church remained intact because it is located in the old part of the city, on a hill, and the water did not reach here. Several families of our parishioners have been affected. Their homes were flooded. The same goes for Orsk, which was hit earlier. It is a city of over 200,000 inhabitants. There is also a Catholic parish here. The church wasn’t flooded either, even though the water got very close. We are constantly receiving information about new places where water is flooding, even individual cities and villages. We went to bring various necessary items and cleaning products – what we could collect.”

The situation is also serious in the northern and western regions of Kazakhstan. According to authorities, more than 100,000 people have been evacuated, a third of whom are children. Petropavlovsk, which is underwater, is the northernmost city in Kazakhstan. Father Piotr Lacheta, a Redemptorist priest, works there. “We are experiencing a catastrophic flood. Especially in this area, where many descendants of Poles live, some villages were flooded by snowmelt water, but no one expected that there would soon be a massive flood here in the north. Here in Petropavlovsk, although the dams have been fortified, the houses are flooded up to the roofs. And there are many flooded houses, it is said to be several thousand.” – reports the priest.

He points out that the water has risen steadily in recent weeks and has reached the north, for example the village of Sokolówka, where a Catholic chapel is located, and people have been evacuated there too. “We talk about the flood of the century, no one remembers water levels as high as what we experienced here. We are trying to help these people in some way. Many volunteers and humanitarian aid arrived in the city from other areas of Kazakhstan. There are also flood victims who live in our monasteries,” says Father Lacheta. He underlines that the flood extends across the entire range from the Urals up to a thousand kilometres. “The extent of the losses and the various aids that will be needed will only become evident when the flood situation has normalized because, at the moment, everything is under water, and perhaps only in the next few weeks will the water recede and it will be clearer what the losses,” says the Redemptorist. He adds that, fortunately, there are no human victims because the evacuation operation was carried out in time and is still continuing.

Reporter e photo: Fr. Marek Raczkiewicz CSsR, Kazakistan
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