Spring Floods Sweep Across Central Asia

Spring Floods Sweep Across Central Asia
Spring Floods Sweep Across Central Asia

Rivers swelled in southern Russia and northern Kazakhstan in April 2024 following heavy rain and rapid snowmelt. Floodwater inundated thousands of homes and reportedly displaced upwards of 200,000 people from cities along the Ural and other major rivers.

On April 5, water levels in the Ural River rose several meters near Orsk, Russia, about 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) east of Moscow, and a dam in the city failed. The river had risen to 9.6 meters (31 feet), while the dam was built for a water level of 5.5 meters (18 feet), local officials told news outlets.

Over the coming days, the deluge caused damaging floods for hundreds of kilometers downstream. Water overtook large areas of Orenburg, Russia, a city of more than half a million people. Approximately 3,000 homes were submerged and at least 7,700 people were evacuated, according to news reports. The Ural River reached a height of nearly 12 meters, which is 2.5 meters above the level considered “critical.”

The images above show Orenburg on April 5 (left), before floodwaters arrived, and on April 13 (right), the day river levels peaked. The scenes were acquired by the OLI (Operational Land Imager) on Landsat 8 and the OLI-2 on Landsat 9, respectively. The images are false color (bands 5-4-3) to emphasize the presence of water, which appears blue-green; vegetation appears red.

River water similarly reached extraordinary heights in Russia’s southern Ural and western Siberian regions, as well as in northern Kazakhstan. In Kurgan, Russia, the Tobol River burst its banks, spurring thousands of people to evacuate in what has been called the worst flooding in living memory. The Ishim River flooded the northern Kazakh city of Petropavlovsk, causing evacuations and disruptions to the city’s water and power supplies, according to news reports.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Michala Garrison, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Lindsey Doermann.

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