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MOSCOW: Russia’s government has declared on Sunday flood-hit areas in the Orenburg region a federal emergency, state media reported.

The floods, caused by rising water levels in the Ural River, forced over 4,000 people, including 885 children, to evacuate, the regional government said. State news agency Tass said that a further 2,000 homes were flooded, bringing the total to nearly 6,300 in the region.

Russia’s Emergency Situations Minister Alexander Kurenko varrived arrived in Orsk — one of the hardest-hit cities — on Sunday to supervise rescue operations.

“I propose classifying the situation in the Orenburg region as a federal emergency and establishing a federal level of response,” the minister said, according to RIA Novosti.

Orsk, less than 20 kilometers north of the border with Kazakhstan, suffered the brunt of the floods which caused a dam to break on Friday, according to Orsk mayor Vasily Kozupitsa. By Sunday morning, 4,500 residential buildings in the city of 200,000 were flooded and evacuation efforts were still ongoing, Tass said.

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 meters (nearly 18 feet). On Saturday morning, the water level reached about 9.3 meters and rising, Kozupitsa said. On Sunday, the level in Orsk reached 9.7 meters, according to Russia’s water level information site AllRivers.

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

Officials in the regional capital (also called Orenburg) some 250 kilometers away from Orsk, wrote on Telegram Sunday that the situation in the city was “getting worse,” as water levels increased by 28 centimeters compared to the previous day. Over 1,300 homes flooded and 428 people evacuated, they said.

Footage from Orsk and Orenburg showed water covering the streets dotted with one-story houses.

The Ural River, about 2,428 kilometers-long, flows from the southern section of the Urals into the north end of the Caspian Sea, through Russia and Kazakhstan.

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