President Tokayev Lays Out Instructions to Address Aftermath of Massive Floods

ASTANA – President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev convened a meeting of national headquarters on April 1 to discuss measures to address the aftermath of massive floods that affected at least seven regions of the country, reported the Akorda press service. Tokayev guaranteed financial assistance for all flood victims.

The meeting of national headquarters on flood prevention on April 1. Photo credit: Akorda.

The national headquarters, led by Kazakh Prime Minister Olzhas Bektenov, was established on behalf of the President during an urgent meeting on March 30 due to the emergency situation caused by flooding in the country’s regions. 

According to the latest update from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, 13,659 citizens have been evacuated from the emergency zones, including 5,250 children.

Photo credit: the Kazakh Ministry of Internal Affairs.

“Since the beginning of the flood season, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and local government bodies have pumped out over 4.6 million cubic meters of meltwater, laid more than 370,000 sandbags, and used 728,000 tons of inert material,” reads the ministry’s April 1 statement. 

The government is carrying out restoration work on 40 washed-out sections of roads, bridges, and road surfaces. State bodies are maintaining communication with settlements left without transportation links, and local administrations are supplying reserves of food and medication.

Support measures for flood victims

According to Tokayev, as a result of negligence and a lack of professionalism of government structures, Kazakh citizens have suffered significant material losses, facing domestic inconveniences that have adversely affected their health and well-being. President Tokayev extended his apologies and expressed regret over the significant losses of personal property suffered by people in the affected regions.

Photo credit: the department of emergency situations of the West Kazakhstan Region.

“The state will take measures to compensate for these losses. To our citizens, I want to say: do not worry; the state and entrepreneurs will compensate for all losses. But the financial and political losses are more than significant, and we must take them into account. Hence, there is a substantial amount of work ahead for the government. Expectations will be demanding,” said Tokayev.

He gave an instruction to provide all necessary assistance to the affected citizens. This requires mobilizing both government and local administration reserves, as well as resources from the Qazaqstan Halqyna Fund, a charitable foundation aimed at providing relief to the country’s most vulnerable groups of the population.

President Tokayev called upon all representatives of the business community to help the people, saying it is a “collective task for all of us.”

“In the western regions hit hard by severe floods, there are many large enterprises, including those affiliated with the Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund and companies involved in resource extraction. I am confident that they will provide necessary assistance to the people and actively participate in the restoration of damaged infrastructure,” he noted.

As of April 1, 8,458 people, 2,124 vehicles, 808 water pumping devices, and 65 watercraft are involved in the emergency rescue operations along with 14 aircraft from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, local executive bodies, and organizations.

The government’s actions to address the crisis and mitigate flood risks

President Tokayev instructed the government to prevent price hikes on essential services and food products in the affected regions and develop a coordination plan to implement measures to preserve floodwater for agricultural purposes. He also said that local authorities need to carry out activities to divert meltwater from populated areas into riverbeds or reservoirs.

Photo credit:

The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation has mobilized over 1,000 personnel and more than 280 units of equipment in flood-affected areas. The ministry has also established round-the-clock patrols at water management facilities.

“The situation with floods and wildfires repeats year after year. The forecast and analytical work of responsible agencies and specialized services, such as Kazvodkhoz and Kazhydromet, is poorly organized. Response measures are primarily taken reactively or with minimal forecasting. Therefore, it is imperative for us to have an effective mechanism for predicting crisis situations,” he said. 

By the end of 2024, Tokayev tasked the profile ministries to develop an information system that will allow for the modeling of possible emergency situations and generate corresponding forecasts, recommendations, and action plans. 

“The government and local executive bodies, particularly the governors of the regions, need to prepare for the summer period. Fires and other natural disasters are quite possible,” he said. 

President Tokayev criticized the state concept for the development of the water resources management system until 2030 and instructed its provisions to be revised. In his opinion, the action plan is merely declarative and fails to address the issues of flood prevention and damage reduction comprehensively. 

“Competent institutions are not working together, evading responsibility and shifting the workload onto each other. If the situation doesn’t change, responsible officials should be removed from their positions. The primary criterion is the effectiveness of public servants. There is a lack of clear and stable communication between government agencies and local administrations. The respective ministry should oversee the country’s readiness for natural disasters. This is its main task,” he said. 

The crisis emphasized Kazakhstan’s shortage of technical specialists in water resources and irrigation. Tokayev urged a thorough examination of international practices concerning flood management.

“The floods this year have surpassed the scale of the floods in 2012 and 2017, which were considered the largest in the past 30 years. What does this signify? It indicates a complete absence of predictive work attributed to a shortage of specialists in the relevant field. The consequences and extent of the disaster, even considering the weather conditions, could have been minimized if local authorities had consistently executed all planned flood prevention measures annually,” said Tokayev. 

While it is important to involve volunteers and people in the effort, the key responsibility for addressing the aftermath of the floods lies on state bodies, said Tokayev. 

“The situation could deteriorate at any moment. Right now, the primary task is to prevent human casualties. It is important to learn from past mistakes and shortcomings,” he added. 

Get The Astana Times stories sent directly to you! Sign up via the website or subscribe to our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube and Tiktok!