Putin warns about spring floods across Russia

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says thousands of Russian towns and villages could be affected by "unusually strong" spring floods as record snowfall melts after the harshest winter in years.

Russia's NTV television reported Friday that hundreds of people in the central Voronezh region had to be evacuated after their homes were flooded. TV footage showed emergency workers using boats to ferry stranded people out.

Putin told emergency officials in a televised meeting Friday that some 3,000 villages and towns, as well as hundreds of railroad tracks and bridges, could be submerged throughout the spring across Russia's vast territory, which spans 11 time zones.

Weather reports warned of "catastrophic" floods in Siberia, where river ice is up to several meters (yards) thick, and rivers flowing northward routinely surge with melting water.