More than 75 000 evacuate after dam failure leads to severe flooding in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

More than 75 000 evacuate after dam failure leads to severe flooding in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

More than 75 000 people evacuated their homes in the border areas of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan following a reservoir dam failure, which resulted in widespread flooding on May 1, 2020.

The Sardoba Reservoir Dam on the Uzbek side broke early Friday, causing the Syr Darya river to overflow. The floods affected more than 600 homes in southern Kazakhstan, left about 50 people injured, and caused crop damage-- mostly to cotton-- worth more than 400 000 dollars.

The dam encountered failure due to heavy rain and strong winds, the government said.

In Uzbekistan, about 70 000 people from 22 villages in the Syrdarya region fled their homes. The government assured that the people were displaced to safer districts and were provided with food.

In Kazakhstan, authorities evacuated around 5 400 people from four villages in the Maktaaral district, province of Turkestan, according to governor Ummirzak Shukeyev. Some people had left the area on their own, he added.

The Uzbek government noted that it had managed to lessen the flow of water and divert it to a nearby lake. However, officials in the southern Turkistan region criticized the Uzbek government for not being able to provide prompt information on the status of flood control. 

"We have a copy of our correspondence with the Uzbek side, that as of 15:00 UTC on May 1 (20:00 LT), the situation was stable and there were no problems," said Turkistan deputy governor Saken Kalkamanov on May 2.

As of May 3, Uzbek authorities have already launched a criminal probe, which had been opened into "official negligence" and construction rules violation. 

The Sardoba Reservoir was completed in 2017, after seven years of construction that started under the supervision of president Shavkat Mirziyoev, who was the prime minister at that time. Mirziyoev visited the region to manage the evacuation and cleanup operations. 

"They said that not a drop of water would reach Maktaraal district. Nevertheless, what happened has happened."

Featured image credit: Jonas Astrup

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